U.S. Supreme Ct. Refuses to Hear Anonymous Tip Case to Justify Traffic Stop

 In the drunk driving case, Virginia v. Harris, the commonwealth challenged a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that said police who pursue tips about people driving drunk may not act until they actually see the driver driving dangerously. In the case before the Court, an anonymous tipster told Richmond police that Joseph Moses Harris Jr. was driving drunk. The officer did not see unsafe driving before pulling Harris over. Harris was convicted, but the state Supreme Court reversed the conviction on Fourth Amendment grounds as the result of an improper search.

 ”This is an important question that is not answered by our past decisions, and that has deeply divided federal and state courts,” wrote Roberts in a dissent from denial, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia. “The conflict is clear and the stakes are high. The effect of the rule below will be to grant drunk drivers ‘one free swerve’ before they can legally be pulled over by police. It will be difficult for an officer to explain to the family of a motorist killed by that swerve that the police had a tip that the driver of the other car was drunk, but that they were powerless to pull him over, even for a quick check.”

Kentucky law has long held that the anonymous tip must have “indicia of reliability” and will be reviewed on the “totality of the circumstances standard”.

 Com. v. Morgan, 248 S.W.3d 538 (Ky., 2008)                                    January 24, 2008

Before an investigating officer can rely on an anonymous tip as part of his basis for reasonable suspicion, that tip must have sufficient indicia of reliability. Hampton v. Commonwealth, 231 S.W.3d 740, 745 (Ky.2007); See Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 276, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 1381, 146 L.Ed.2d 254 (2000); Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 332, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 2417, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990).

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