Have you ever thought about calling the police to report someone who cut you off or otherwise engaged in bad driving? Well, the Supreme Court of the United States has given this some thought and they have actually expressed concern over the potential for a person to make an anonymous call for the purpose of falsely reporting another so that the police falsely stop that person.
This week the court heard a California case based upon whether the police can stop a person based upon nothing more than an anonymous phone call that the person was driving recklessly. See below. An anonymous caller called 911 and reported a silver pickup truck was driving recklessly and ran her off the road. She gave them the license plate number and the police were able to identify and stop the driver. However, the police did not see the driver committing any traffic violations nor any other criminal violations prior to stopping him. And after stopping him-you guessed it-they discovered he had four large bags of marihuana.
So now sometime this June, The Supremes will decide if the police can rely on these anonymous phone calls. They have previously indicated that an anonymous tip is not enough to justify a stop/search without some other evidence to indicate that criminal activity “is afoot.” In a Florida case in 2000, they decided that an anonymous tip that a teenager at a bus stop had a gun was not enough alone to justify stopping and searching him. “In reaching that result, Justice Ginsburg worried that letting police act based on uncorroborated anonymous tips would make it too easy for grudge-holders to use police as their instrument of revenge.” See below.
So if you’re thinking about making that call to report someone on the road, be aware that they are going to want your personal information and that you are potentially making yourself a witness for someone else’s criminal case. Which is fine if you actually need to report a crime. Just don’t be tempted to call for other reasons…the police are not “your instrument of revenge.”