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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Navarette v. California 134 S.Ct. 1683 police can stop car based on 911 call

Navarette v. California 134 S.Ct. 1683 police can stop car based on 911 call
A California Highway Patrol officer stopped the pickup truck occupied by petitioners because it matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As he and a second officer approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. They searched the truck’s bed, found 30 pounds of marijuana, and arrested petitioners. Petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. Their motion was denied, and they pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop.
Held: The traffic stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the truck’s driver was intoxicated.  
(a) The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops when an officer has “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of . . . criminal activity.” United States v. Cortez, 449 U. S. 411–418. Reasonable suspicion takes into account “the totality of the circumstances,” id., at 417, and depends “upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability,” Alabama v. White, 496 U. S. 325. An anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates sufficient reliability, White, 496 U. S., at 329, but may do so under appropriate circumstances, id., at 327.  
(b) The 911 call in this case bore adequate indicia of reliability for the officer to credit the caller’s account. By reporting that she had been run off the road by a specific vehicle, the caller necessarily claimed an eyewitness basis of knowledge. The apparently short time between the reported incident and the 911 call suggests that the caller had little time to fabricate the report. And a reasonable officer could conclude that a false tipster would think twice before using the 911 system, which has several technological and regulatory features that safeguard against making false reports with immunity.  
(c) Not only was the tip here reliable, but it also created reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. Running another car off the road suggests the sort of impairment that characterizes drunk driving. While that conduct might be explained by another cause such as driver distraction, reasonable suspicion “need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U. S. 266. Finally, the officer’s failure to observe additional suspicious conduct during the short period that he followed the truck did not dispel the reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, and the officer was not required to surveil the truck for a longer period.  

Wikipedia says
Navarette v. California
Prado Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. ___ (2014), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court clarified when police officers may make arrests or conduct temporary detentions based on information provided by anonymous tips.[1] In 2008, police in California received a 911 call that a pickup truck was driving recklessly along a rural highway. Officers spotted a truck matching the description provided in the 911 call and followed the truck for five minutes, but did not observe any suspicious behavior. Nevertheless, officers conducted a traffic stop and discovered 30 pounds (14 kg) of marijuana in the truck. At trial, the occupants of the car argued that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, because the tip was unreliable, and officers did not personally observe criminal activity. Writing for a majority of the Court, Justice Clarence Thomas held that the 911 call was reliable, and that officers need not personally observe criminal activity when acting upon information provided by an anonymous 911 call.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a "scathing" dissenting opinion, in which he argued that the tip was unreliable, and that the majority's opinion threatened the freedom and liberty of all citizens.[2] Likewise, many commentators have noted Navarette represented a departure from earlier precedent, and that the opinion opened the door for expansive new police powers.[3] Some commentators have also noted that the case leaves open several important questions, including the unanswered question of whether anonymous reports of extremely dangerous behavior require fewer indicia of reliability before police may act upon those reports.[4] Other scholars have argued it was highly unlikely that Lorenzo and Jose Prado Navarette were actually driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they were stopped by police.[5]