Though our blog has previously covered issues of the Fourth Amendment right of protection from unreasonable search and seizure, it seems the Supreme Court of the United States is slightly altering that right. As part of that right, police cannot rely on anonymous tips in getting search warrants or stopping individuals unless there is some other evidence that corroborates the tip. It seems that after a recent decision, however, that police can use an anonymous 911 tip or complaint to stop drivers and check their sobriety.
It was during one of these stops that out-of-state police found marijuana. While this particular arrest did not happen in New Jersey, because the Supreme Court decided the case, the ruling will stand unless the state passes legislation that will provide greater protection from anonymous tips.
The decision was close, but five justices held that police can stop a vehicle and check to see if the driver is drunk based solely on an anonymous tip. In the case at hand, a woman called 911 to report a vehicle that she said had run her off the road. She gave the 911 dispatcher a description of the car and the license plate number. A short time later, Highway Patrol officers pulled the vehicle over, even though they saw no indication of the driver being intoxicated while trailing the vehicle.
Once the vehicle was stopped, police noted that they could smell marijuana, checked the vehicle and found 30 pounds of it.
This is a drastic change in criminal and police procedure. How it plays out in New Jersey in the years to come is not yet quite clear.
Source: The Atlantic, “Can an Anonymous Tip Get You Arrested for Drunk Driving?” Garrett Epps, May 14, 2014