Supreme Court Rules Police Can Make DUI Arrest Based on Anonymous Tip

A recent decision by the Supreme Court allows police officers to pull over a person on suspicion of drunk driving, based solely on an anonymous call.

The decision came in a case involving a DUI arrest in California 2008. A 911 dispatch in Humboldt County reportedly got an anonymous call from a motorist reporting that a Ford pickup truck had just driven her off the road. The anonymous tip provided the license number of the Ford pickup truck, and officers began looking for the driver. They found the same truck, and followed it for some distance.

It's important to note here that the officers found nothing wrong with the manner in which the motorist was driving. The pickup truck was driving at normal speeds, and there was no reckless behavior. Even so, the police officers ordered the driver to pull over, and walked over to see whether he was drunk. He was not drunk, but according to the police officers, they smelled marijuana. They conducted a search of the truck, and found 30 pounds of marijuana.

For police officers to pull a person over on suspicion of drunk driving, it is important that they have reasonable suspicion that he is driving under the influence of alcohol. They cannot just pull a person over because they doubt that he has been engaged in illegal activity. American people have strong protections from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.

However, the Supreme Court has now decided that the police officers’ actions in pulling the man over and arresting him later were valid, even though they were based solely on an anonymous tip provided by a 911 caller.