DUI Stops and Anonymous Tips

Is an anonymous tip sufficient grounds to stop someone for a suspected DUI?

As we enter the holiday season, law enforcement officers will be on high alert for suspected drunk drivers. In an effort to crackdown on drunk driving, officers will likely utilize DUI checkpoints, increase the number of vehicles on patrol, and encourage the public to call in if they believe a fellow motorist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Stopping a car on the basis of an anonymous tip is controversial. After all, the officer will have no knowledge as to the informant’s trustworthiness or accuracy. Nonetheless, current case law in Arizona and nationally allows for drivers to be stopped on the basis of an anonymous tip, provided certain conditions are met. Our Phoenix DUI attorneys discuss the case of Navarette v. California and what you need to know if you are stopped due to an anonymous tip below.

Navarette v. California

In Navarette v. California, the United States Supreme Court reviewed the important issue of whether an anonymous tip can provide probable cause for a police officer to stop a driver suspected of intoxication or wrongdoing. In that case, the tipster called law enforcement to report that they had been run off the road by a pickup truck. They provided a description of the vehicle along with the license plate number.  

Officers spotted the vehicle and followed it. Though the driver did not behave suspiciously, officers stopped the truck. They discovered 30 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle. At trial, the defendant claimed that the stop ran contrary to the Fourth Amendment because the tip was not reliable and officers did not personally observe any criminal activity.  

Upon reaching the Supreme Court, the majority ruled against the defendants. The court held that under certain circumstances, an anonymous tip can provide the reasonable suspicion needed to make an investigatory stop. The court found the anonymous tip in Navarette reliable because the tipster claimed to be an eye witness, called while observing the dangerous behavior, and called 911, which could be traced.

The case could have troubling effects for drivers stopped on suspicion of drunk driving. Per the law, an unsubstantiated tip could potentially be all that is needed to stop your car. Drivers in Arizona should be aware of the law concerning anonymous tips, but also know that they can potentially challenge a DUI based on an anonymous tip. Contact a DUI attorney for more assistance with fighting the DUI charges you face.  

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