As reported by the L.A. Times, The U.S. Supreme Court allowed to let a Virginia Supreme Court ruling stand that calls into question the legality of DUI stops based only on a phoned in tip from an eyewitness.
The case arose when police received a tip of a possibly drunk driver behind the wheel of an Altima. The caller gave police a partial license plate number and description. Based on the tip, not any other factors, Joseph Harris of Richmond was pulled over and arrested for DUI.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled the stop was an unreasonable search because the officer did not witness any signs that Harris had been drinking. In other words, they ruled that the phoned in tip did not constitute probable cause.
In a 7 to 2 vote this week, the United States Supreme Court denied the to give cert, which in a sense, backed the Virginia Court’s decision and agreed that a phoned in tip is not sufficient for a DUI stop.
As this report from The New American details, U.S. Justice John Roberts was outraged with the ruling and said it essentially gives drivers “one free swerve” before they can be questioned by police.
Roberts was one of the 2 votes to wanted to take on the case and make a ruling that would apply to all states. Currently, Virginia is among only 4 states that don’t allow vehicle stops based on anonymous reports.
If the Court were to hear, and eventually overturn the lower court’s ruling, it would have opened the door for many other searches based solely on a witness’s tip. The Court cited a similar case in which it was ruled a citizen could not be frisked only based on an anonymous call as precedence.
There are many rules, laws, and court rulings that govern how a search and arrest can occur. When the police fail to follow these rules and procedures set up through prior court rulings and state law, they run the risk of violating a citizen’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, as detailed in the 4th Amendment.
When you are facing criminal charges, you want a defense attorney to look closely at the steps the police followed during the arrest and investigation stages of your case. There are many instances where criminal charges are dropped because the police didn’t follow proper protocol.
If you are up against criminal charges in the Virginia courts and want to ensure every rock is unturned in the defense of your case, contact me today. I am interested in the details of your case and I am interested in working with you.