Last month, the Supreme Court upheld a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that police officers cannot stop suspected drunk drivers until they actually observe the driver doing something erratic, such as swerving in a lane. They can, however, follow the driver’s car. This ruling does not require other states to follow Virginia’s example; however, the case makes it unlikely that police stops based on anonymous tips will be upheld in the future.
As a result of the ruling in Virginia, a Virginia driver was freed after he was pulled over and later arrested based on a call reporting his vehicle and giving a partial license plate number. The driver was found to be drunk when an officer tried to question him; however, the Virginia court ruled that it was an “unreasonable search” to pull over a driver based solely on a caller’s tip.
In their ruling, the judges cited an earlier case involving a Miami youth who was arrested at a bus stop and the Supreme Court stated that police cannot frisk a pedestrian based on an anonymous tip. Most state courts have upheld car searches based on caller’s tips assuming the vehicle matches the description given by the caller.
Supreme Court upholds ban on traffic stops based on a caller’s tip, PoliceOne.com, October 27, 2009
Supreme Court upholds ban on traffic stops based on a caller’s tip, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2009
If you have questions regarding your legal rights as a Florida driver, then please contact our South Florida traffic attorneys.