Byline: Barry Bridges
A Traffic Tribunal magistrate and appeals panel did not err in concluding that a statement from a "known" informant provided a police officer with reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory traffic stop consistent with the confines of the Fourth Amendment.
State District Court Magistrate Judge Joseph P. Ippolito found that a phone call from a restaurant employee to police dispatch indicating that a driver had not paid for his meal and was possibly intoxicated conveyed reasonably trustworthy information.
According to Ippolito, the call was not in the nature of an anonymous tip, which would be subject to heightened scrutiny.
"[The officer's] knowledge was based on a statement given by a private citizen to his dispatch officer," he wrote. "And though [the officer] may not have known the person's name, and though the dispatcher may or may not have obtained it, the caller was hardly an anonymous tipster, as that term is generally understood."
[box type="shadow" align="alignright" width="325px"]CASE: DiOrio v. State, Lawyers Weekly No. 63-061-19 (53 pages)
COURT: R.I. District Court
ISSUE: Did an informant's call to police dispatch provide an officer with reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory traffic stop?
DECISION: Yes, as the "known tip" was reasonably reliable[/box]
Ippolito also concurred that the facts established that appellant David DiOrio had "operated" his vehicle within the meaning of Rhode Island's implied consent law, even though he was parked at the time of his interaction with South Kingstown patrolman Thomas Bouffard.
"[A]s to these two issues, the question is simply what did the officer know?" he summarized. "In my view, the answer to both questions is the Appeals Panel's finding that he knew enough is not clearly erroneous."
With the constitutional and statutory issues raised on appeal thus satisfied, Ippolito recommended that DiOrio's conviction for refusing to submit to a chemical test be upheld. In turn, District Court Chief Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia adopted Ippolito's findings and recommendations as the decision of the court.
Stefanie A. Murphy of East Greenwich was counsel for the appellant, while John E. Corrigan and Brendan P. Sullivan handled the appeal for the Attorney General's Office. The attorneys did not respond to requests for comment prior to press deadlines.
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