Can you be stopped based on an anonymous 911 call?
Reasonable Suspicion for a Stop
In order for an officer to stop your vehicle and temporarily detain you, they must have at least reasonable suspicion a crime was, is, or will soon be occurring. Evidence for reasonable suspicion is generally gathered through an officer’s first-hand observation of your activity.
Stopped Based on Anonymous 911 call
However, sometimes reasonable suspicion can be established by a civilian reporting your actions to the police. A civilian tip must be deemed reliable before officers can use it as the basis for a stop. Generally speaking, anonymous tips are not reliable because the caller does not put themselves in a position to be held accountable for the information they report to the police. In order to determine whether a 911 tip is sufficient to establish cause for the police to stop your vehicle, a totality of the circumstances must be considered.
For example, in Navarette v. California, an unidentified citizen observed reckless driving behavior and called 911 to report the activity. In Navarette, the Supreme Court of the United States determined probable cause was formed based upon a 911 call from an unidentified person for the following reasons: (1) a 911 bore adequate evidence of reliability because the caller was detailing an eye witness account; (2) there was only a short time between the reported reckless driving and 911 call; (3) and the fact that the 911 system is no longer really anonymous due to the recording of call back numbers. When factors like these tend toward finding an informant reliable, police officers may consider the information in establishing reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a stop. That means it would not be necessary for police to continuing following you to establish their own, independent reason for a legal stop.
Motion to Suppress
What does this mean for you? There are now even more avenues by which officers may establish legal reasons to stop your vehicle and detain you for investigation. You will need a law firm with knowledge of search and seizure law in Texas to challenge any stop by law enforcement and prevent any evidence obtained after an illegal stop or search from being used against you. This is called a Motion to Suppress. If you are interested in hiring our attorneys to represent you in north Texas, call us at (817) 203-2220.
Also published on Medium.