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Is anonymous tip cause enough for traffic stop?

For many in the state of New York, the only interaction they will likely ever have with law enforcement is in the form of a traffic stop which might lead to a ticket and perhaps points on their license. These stops are usually the result of activities police officers see with their own eyes that violate the traffic laws. In some states this is not the only time that they will pull over a vehicle however. Sometimes police will make a traffic stop based on reports of dangerous driving from other motorists, without witnessing it themselves. Currently the matter is handled differently in both state and federal courts throughout the nation.

In an effort to get all courts on the same page, last month the United States Supreme Court indicated that it will hear a case on this very matter. The case it will hear is an appeal filed by two brothers in another state who were pulled over by police officers after other drivers reported that their vehicle was being driven in a reckless manner. That stop led to a drug arrest when marijuana was found in their pickup truck. Both men ultimately pled guilty to transporting marijuana. They claim that the traffic stop was a violation of their constitutional rights.

When the court hears oral arguments the crux of the issue will be whether tips regarding reckless driving should be handled the same by law enforcement as other anonymous tips law enforcement receives. A previous ruling deemed that under most circumstances anonymous tips alone are not a basis for an individual to be either searched or detained.

As this case illustrates, the ruling is an important one when it comes to how cases involving serious charges, such as those related to drugs that arose out of a traffic stop, will be prosecuted and defended. If the basis for a stop is not legal, then evidence that is collected in the course of that stop may be thrown out at trial. The case will be heard and a decision rendered next year.

Source: Huffington Post, "Supreme Court To Rule Whether An Anonymous Tip Is Enough For A Traffic Stop," Mark Sherman, Oct. 1, 2013

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