Part of the reason why the Supreme Court of the United States reviews so many criminal cases is because the Founders could never possibly have thought up all the scenarios that need clarification today. It is the court’s responsibility to interpret these scenarios with respect to the protections provided for people in the Constitution. And it is these constitutional protections that keep New Jersey police officers and prosecutors from throwing whomever they want into jail on whatever charges they wish. It is the Constitution that attempts to keep the criminal justice system fair for everyone.
So, it should be no surprise that the Supreme Court has recently announced that it will be taking up another criminal appeal. This time the court will be considering the question of whether police can stop a car solely on an anonymous tip. The court had been presented with the question four years ago, but they elected not to hear the appeal.
Though the underlying case that the Supreme Court will hear did not happen in New Jersey, the court’s decision will likely have a wide-reaching effect, including on New Jersey motorists. The two brothers who are appealing a conviction for transporting marijuana, arguing that their constituional rights were violated after they were stopped because of an anonymous tip.
It seems the brothers’ pickup truck was stopped after a motorist called 911 to report that the truck had forced his or her vehicle off the road. Police eventually found the truck, but when they did they didn’t see any erratic driving. Even though there was no apparent criminal activity going on, police still stopped the vehicle because of the tip. It was then that they discovered marijuana in the truck, leading to the arrest and criminal charges.
Source: The Associated Press, “Court: Is anonymous tip enough for traffic stop?” Mark Sherman, Oct. 1, 2013