Are Anonymous Informants Lawful?

If you have been arrested for DUI, you may be wondering if there is anything about your arrest that may have been unlawful. In particular, if the police stopped your car as the result of an anonymous tip that you were driving drunk, you may be wondering about the legality of such tips and whether they hold up in court. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this. In a previous blog entry, we discussed DUI stops that were found unlawful due to anonymous tips. However, in at least one California case, a stop based on an anonymous tip was found lawful.

On Highway 99 in Kern County, California, a California Highway Patrol officer received a report of a possible drunk driver on the highway. As the record was silent, the court inferred that the tip was anonymous. The tipster described the color and model of the van and its approximate location and the fact that it was headed north. The officer waited for the van to pass him, and soon pulled over a vehicle matching the description, even though it had not committed any other traffic violations.

This tip was anonymous and uncorroborated, so in another court the stop may have been struck down. However, the California Supreme Court ruled that the DUI stop was lawful because of four factors: the grave and immediate risk posed by a drunk driver, the presumed rarity of false tips, the court’s belief that being pulled over the police is not as large an intrusion as being searched, and the fact that the tip provided accurate information.

If you have further questions about ways in which you can contest your DUI arrest, contact a Milwaukee DUI attorney at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.