Posted by the Charleston, SC DUI Attorneys at Anderson & Schuster, Attorneys at Law, LLC. Our Charleston DUI lawyers help those charged with DUI in Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Summerville and across the South Carolina lowcountry. If you are charged with DUI, our Charleston, SC DUI Lawyers will discuss your case with you free of charge.
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in Navarette v. California recently ruled that an anonymous tip alone can justify a traffic stop for suspected driving under the influence (DUI). Navarette was not a DUI case, but it's holding has some significant implications on the lawfulness of DUI stops and arrests, as well as many other cases. In Navarette, a driver called 911 and described a vehicle that she said almost ran her off the highway – a single instance of irregular or hazardous driving. Officers found the vehicle roughly 15 minutes later on the highway and, without personally observing any traffic violations or suspicious behavior, initiated a traffic stop based soley on the caller's tip. The Court held that such a tip, even if anonymous, was reliable, and that the reported behavior was sufficiently connected to driving under the influence (DUI) to justify a traffic stop and DUI investigation.
A link to the full text of the case is below, and Justice Scalia's dissent is well worth a read becuase it points out with great clarity the flaws in the logic of the majority opinion. Here is a real world example to sum it up: You are driving on I-26 in Charleston and someone calls 911 or the Highway Patrol and says you "almost ran him off the road," or "that guy cut me off." The Court ssays this tip is reliable because: 1. the caller can give the make, color and license plate of your car; 2. People don't lie, embellish or exaggerate when they report something like this in a fit of road rage, especially when they think they will remain anonymous; and 3. They were able to predict that you would, big surprise, continue driving down I-26. Now, this "reliable" tip is enough to lawfully stop you, even if no other irregular or illegal driving is observed by the officer, under the idea it is now reasonable to think you might be driving under the influence (DUI).