Anonymous Tips for Impaired Drivers in LA

A policeman waits to catch speeding drivers with a radar gun

In driving under the influence cases, an officer usually must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is violating the law before stopping the vehicle. The reasonable suspicion is typically based on something the officer observes, such as a speeding or lane change violation or an equipment violation. Once the driver has been pulled over, the officer may form the suspicion that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and can conduct a DUI investigation.

However, with more and more drivers having access to cell phones, police agencies increasingly rely on reports and tips of dangerous drivers received from the general public. Anyone who has driven on California freeways will notice signs urging motorists to report impaired driving. When a person calls 911 to report a suspected drunken driver, he or she may not give a name. In recent years, courts have had to address whether police can rely on an anonymous call to justify a traffic stop.

Anonymous Call to Justify Traffic Stop

Recent California and United States Supreme Court decisions have generally allowed police to rely on anonymous reports to justify a vehicle stop. In the 2006 People v. Wells case, the California Supreme Court considered a case where an officer pulled a driver over after receiving a dispatch call of a possible impaired driver who was weaving all over the road. The officer found a vehicle that matched the description in the dispatch call travelling on the same freeway as mentioned in the call. The officer did not observe any illegal driving conduct, but stopped the vehicle anyway. The officer suspected that the driver was impaired and she was ultimately arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.

Upheld by Supreme Courts

The California Supreme Court held that the arrest was valid based on the anonymous tip. The California Supreme Court noted that in order to justify a traffic stop based on an anonymous tip, certain criteria must have existed when the traffic stop was conducted. The officer must have reasonably concluded that the vehicle stopped was the same one as reported, the caller must have actually observed a violation of the law, the caller must have described a dangerous situation and the caller must be reliable.

The United States Supreme Court subsequently addressed traffic stops based on anonymous tips in the Navarette v. California case that originated out of California. In Navarette, an anonymous caller reported a driver who had nearly driven her off the road. The CHP found the car and followed it. The car was driving normally but the officer decided to pull the vehicle over. The driver was not impaired, however the officer discovered 30 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle. In the 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the traffic stop was valid based on the anonymous call. To be valid, the report must either come from a known or credible source or must contain “indicia of reliability” if the caller is anonymous.

Even where the 911 caller reports anonymously, there may be ways to verify the call and the caller’s identity. Through the DUI discovery process, the defendant can request a copy of the 911 call and dispatch recordings. The law enforcement agency may have recorded the caller’s phone number and it may be possible to subpoena cell phone records and cell site information to determine whether or not the caller’s report was accurate.

In many cases, the police will not immediately pull a driver over once dangerous driving has been reported, but instead will follow the vehicle to determine if there are independent grounds to stop the driver.

A DUI defendant can challenge the vehicle stop by filing a motion to suppress the evidence pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1538.5 PC. If the traffic stop is found to be invalid, the judge will suppress all resulting evidence and the prosecution will usually have to dismiss the case.

If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, it is imperative that you contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at identifying and litigating critical issues relating to DUI offenses. Mr. Kraut works hard to ensure his clients receive the most comprehensive representation possible.

For more information about Los Angeles DUI Anonymous Tips, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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