Thursday, April 24, 2014

Court approves searches from anonymous tips

The US Supreme Court just decided Navarette v. California, upholding this:
A California Highway Patrol officer stopped the pickup truck occupied by petitioners because it matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As he and a second officer approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. They searched the truck’s bed, found 30 pounds of marijuana, and arrested petitioners. Petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. Their motion was denied, and they pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop.
Drunk driving is off-topic for this blog, but I post this because we are headed towards a society where anonymous busybodies disapprove of someone's parenting practices, call in a complaint to CPS, and CPS and the COPS do an intrusive investigation. They may search the home to go on a fishing expedition, and make a legal case out of whatever they find.

Here is J. Scalia's dissent:
The Court’s opinion serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail consisting of two parts patent falsity: (1) that anonymous 911 reports of traffic violations are reliable so long as they correctly identify a car and its location, and (2) that a single instance of careless or reckless driving necessarily supports a reasonable suspicion of drunken­ness. All the malevolent 911 caller need do is assert a traffic violation, and the targeted car will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, by the police. If the driver turns out not to be drunk (which will almost always be the case), the caller need fear no consequences, even if 911 knows his identity. After all, he never alleged drunkenness, but merely called in a traffic violation—and on that point his word is as good as his victim’s.

Drunken driving is a serious matter, but so is the loss of our freedom to come and go as we please without police interference. To prevent and detect murder we do not allow searches without probable cause or targeted Terry stops without reasonable suspicion. We should not do so for drunken driving either. After today’s opinion all of us on the road, and not just drug dealers, are at risk of having our freedom of movement curtailed on suspicion of drunkenness, based upon a phone tip, true or false, of a single instance of careless driving.
I recently talked to someone who had to deal with an unfounded CPS complaint a few years ago, and she was sure that the caller must have gotten into a lot of trouble for the bogus report. I explained to her that there is no chance that the reporter got into any trouble.

CPS advises that you if are in doubt about reporting something, then you should report it and let CPS check it out. Furthermore, there are laws requires teachers, nurses, and others to report suspicions, with criminal penalties if they do not. It is impractical to be punishing both those who report and those who do not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Justice Scalia was joined in his dissenting opinion by all three gals on the court.