Anonymous Tips and Reasonable Suspicion for Motor Vehicle Stops, 1214 RIBJ, 63 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 25

AuthorRichard S. Humphrey, Esq., Law Offices of Richard S. Humphrey, Tiverton.

Anonymous Tips and Reasonable Suspicion for Motor Vehicle Stops

Vol. 63 No. 3 Pg. 25

Rhode Island Bar Journal

December, 2014

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0November, 2014

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0 Richard S. Humphrey, Esq., Law Offices of Richard S. Humphrey, Tiverton.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0This article compares the case law under both State and Federal law with regard to anonymous tips, in particular, State v. Bjerke and Prado Navarette v. California.[1]

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Anonymous Tips and the Rhode Island Supreme Court

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0For a number of years, the definitive case in Rhode Island concerning the role of the anonymous tipster in determining reasonable suspicion for a DUI investigation has been State v. Bjerke. In Bjerke, the police received an anonymous telephone call reporting that the operator of a tan-colored Oldsmobile bearing license-plate number TV-536 was traveling on a particular road and was possibly intoxicated.2 As a result of the anonymous tip, an officer was dispatched to the location and also told by the dispatcher that the target-vehicle had a suspended registration (a violation of G.L. 1956 § 31-8-2).3

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Upon arriving at the area described by the anonymous tipster, the officer identified the target-vehicle by vehicle color and license plate number, and conducted a motor vehicle stop.4 Prior to conducting the motor vehicle stop, the officer did not observe any erratic driving. He conducted the stop based solely upon his knowledge of the suspended registration.5 After making contact with the defendant driver, and after observing the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and confusion, the defendant exited the vehicle, failed certain field sobriety tests, and was arrested for: operating on a suspended registration; operating on a suspended driver’s license; and, for suspicion of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.6 He subsequently refused a chemical test, and was charged for the same (under R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-27-2.1).7

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Ultimately, the Court in Bjerke reinstated the refusal charge, which had been dismissed by the trial court, on the grounds that the officer’s knowledge of the driver’s separate criminal violation (i.e. the suspended registration) easily satisfied the need for reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop.8 However, in its reasoning, the Court addressed the information of the anonymous tipster, explaining:

In this case the [AAC] panel concluded that the officer’s reliance upon the information furnished by the anonymous telephone caller concerning the probable intoxication of the driver of a tan Oldsmobile bearing registration-plate number TV-536 did not furnish reasonable suspicion that would permit the officer’s stop of the vehicle and the detention of the defendant driver in order to determine his sobriety We agree with this proposition generally An anonymous tip without sufficient detail or corroboration will not permit even a brief stop.[9]

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Anonymous Tips and the United States Supreme Court

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0On April 22, 2014, the United States Supreme Court...

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