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Supreme Court to take up question of anonymous tips

Supreme Court to take up question of anonymous tips

Before Minneapolis police can search a person’s home, there must be enough evidence to get a search warrant. If officers are relying on an anonymous tip alone, they likely won’t have enough evidence to get the necessary warrant from a magistrate. This is because there is nothing preventing someone from falsely reporting criminal behavior to police. If police can corroborate some of the evidence, however, they can likely get a search warrant and continue their investigation.

What about stopping a car, however? That is an issue that the Supreme Court of the United States will be taking up next year, it recently announced. As an important matter of vehicular crimes, criminal defense attorneys will be closely watching this case.

The case that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear involves two brothers who pled guilty to transporting marijuana. They had been driving when someone called police to say that the brothers had driven his or her vehicle off the road. When police caught up with the brothers, however, they didn’t see any sign of reckless driving. They chose to stop the vehicle on the basis of the anonymous tip and subsequently searched the vehicle after smelling marijuana.

The brothers later appealed, arguing that the anonymous tip was not enough evidence to stop their vehicle and, thus, claiming that police violated their constitutional rights by stopping them. Whether the Supreme Court agrees, however, remains to be seen.

Should the Supreme Court find that an anonymous tip is enough, Minnesota drivers may find themselves stopped just because someone has called the police because of their poor driving.

Source: The Associated Press, “Court: Is anonymous tip enough for traffic stop?” Mark Sherman, Oct. 1, 2013

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