The Iowa Supreme Court recently issued a holding on whether or not an officer can make a suspected drunk driving stop based solely on an anonymous phone call. According to the Court, an anonymous tip is not enough to justify a stop.
The case was brought to the court based on a DUI stop in 2010. The driver had a 0.088 blood alcohol content reading (BAC) and was charged with drunk driving. In Iowa it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC over 0.08. As a result, the driver 0.008 over the legal limit.
The driver argued that the stop was a violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures since the stop was based solely on the tip. The officer admitted that he had made no observations to justify the stop.
Ultimately, the Court agreed with the driver. In the opinion, Justice David Wiggins stated the tip was based on information that "could be observed by the general public and did not indicate the tipster was someone with an intimate knowledge of what the defendant was doing in order to be able to predict future behavior."
The driver will receive a new trial and evidence gathered based on the anonymous tip will be repressed. As a result, the field test and breathe test evidence will not be allowed.
This case is a prime example of the changing nature of the criminal law. Those charged of a crime like drunk driving should contact an attorney to discuss their situation and better ensure their legal rights are protected.
Source: The Gazette, "Iowa Supreme Court: Anonymous tip not enough to stop DUI suspects," Mike Wiser, June 28, 2013