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Supreme Court OKs Stop and Search Based On Anonymous 911 Tips

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the someone-said-you-were-a-sinner dept.

The Courts 461

An anonymous reader writes "On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers are legally allowed to stop and search vehicles based solely on anonymous 911 tips. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that 'a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers' as well as for recording their calls, both of which he believed gave anonymous callers enough reliability for police officers to act on their tips with reasonable suspicion against the people being reported.

The specific case before them involved an anonymous woman who called 911 to report a driver who forced her off the road. She gave the driver's license plate number and the make and model of his car as well as the location of the incident in question. Police officers later found him, pulled him over, smelled marijuana, and searched his car. They found 30 pounds of weed and subsequently arrested the driver. The driver later challenged the constitutionality of the arrest, claiming that a tip from an anonymous source was unreliable and therefore failed to meet the criteria of reasonable suspicion, which would have justified the stop and search. Five of the nine justices disagreed with him."
The ruling itself (PDF).

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Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (5, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about 5 months ago | (#46822503)

I've got this hankerin' to call 911.
This law could get repealed mighty quick if it's senators and congressmen getting pulled over from anonymous tips.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822529)

Be sure to use a payphone.

Hmmm... I wonder if that's still "reliable enough" for reasonable suspicion.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | about 5 months ago | (#46822589)

What pay phone? The only 3 that still exist in the US are also covered by cameras I'm sure.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (3, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46822885)

What pay phone? The only 3 that still exist in the US are also covered by cameras I'm sure.

I used to think this way myself, until I started paying more attention to my surroundings.

There are actually a LOT of pay phones still in service, you just have to know where to look for them; most of the ones I've seen as of late were in gas station parking lots.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (2)

cb88 (1410145) | about 5 months ago | (#46822929)

That was true about 5 years ago in my area... There used to be a payphone at the local community college as well and one at McDonalds now all of them are gone.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822587)

Shows the level of maturity on slashdot, I suppose.
False police reports are a felony.

MOD PARENT DOWN!!!!!1!!1111 (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822643)

I'm fifteen, I'm an average Slashdotter with a huge sense of entitlement, and the parent post makes me angry! Mod down!!!!111!!!11

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (4, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#46822731)

It's not a false report if you use enough soft language. "I *think* I heard something about something and they may have a thing in their car now!"

But then again, that all depends on what your definition of "is" is.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46823095)

That kind of weak language would not be sufficient, you would actually have to say what they were doing that was causing you to believe a crime was being committed, and there would have to be a reasonable basis for presuming it. In the case of anonymous caller in the story, the reported vehicle had actually done something illegal.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822827)

From the 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 drunken
ness. 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 almo
st always be the case), the
caller need fear no conseque
nces, 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

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822861)

So is stealing a a pair of shoes worth more than $200*.

*Depending on what state you're in.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822601)

So why was that guy driving a car while intoxicated and forced a woman off the road? What is the woman supposed to do, just accept that people smoke weed and drive while drunk?

That wasn't the question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822795)

The question wasn't what the woman was supposed to do. The question was what the police were entitled to do.

Re:That wasn't the question (1)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#46822851)

they got a call including plate # and location and stopped the car
what's the problem?

Re:That wasn't the question (2, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 5 months ago | (#46822987)

While following the car they found nothing to warrant them pulling the car over. The only "suspicion" they had was an anonymous call.

While it may have worked out ok in this situation it is a very bad president. I do not want to be pulled over for no fucking reason.

Re:That wasn't the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823047)

You need to look at the reality. Lets say there wasn't a 9/11, and an anonymous caller reports a car that tried to run them off the road, and gives the license plate. You're actually telling me police will not check that out??? In NYC, pre-911, police were busting into apartments with SWAT teams based on the hearsay a drug dealing junkie. Many hard working families had kids with guns pointed on them by paramilitary cops.

The only thing that seems fishy to me is the search. I find it hard to believe that the driver consented to the search, so I don't see how the police could "legally" search the car. Perhaps *that* used some 9/11 mojo.

Re:That wasn't the question (0)

B1 (86803) | about 5 months ago | (#46823129)

When the police officers pulled the driver over, they smelled marijuana. That gave them probable cause, which allows them to search without consent.

Re:That wasn't the question (3, Interesting)

Wapiti-eater (759089) | about 5 months ago | (#46823141)

Why would the driver have to consent? The drive for "public security" has already diminished our rights to the point that as soon as the officer states he 'smelled weed', he has all the consent he needs. Maybe you need to take a look at reality and hopefully begin to understand the severe slope we're already sliding down. What's next? Paying kids with new uniforms to turn in their parents for cussing?

Re:That wasn't the question (4, Funny)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 5 months ago | (#46823081)

While it may have worked out ok in this situation it is a very bad president.

It might be better than last few presidents we've had.

Re:That wasn't the question (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 5 months ago | (#46823177)

While it may have worked out ok in this situation it is a very bad president.

It might be better than last few presidents we've had.

Well, the last couple of presidents have been guiding us on a downward course where surveillance is everything and you are guilty until proven innocent. All the way back to "get-the-government-off-the-backs-of-the-people-Reagan", who thoughtfully provided us with the "you're a drug-addled illegal alien and you can't be hired until you demonstrate otherwise" model for business.

At the rate we're going, a rock would make a better president.

Re:That wasn't the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823187)

While it may have worked out ok in this situation it is a very bad president. I do not want to be pulled over for no fucking reason.

While the president may be bad, the precedent isn't great either.

Re:That wasn't the question (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46823123)

They got a call, including plate number and location, that a car had run someone off the road.

What they did not have was any evidence that someone was actually run off the road.

Nor did they have any evidence that the driver of the suspect vehicle was in any way impaired (they followed him for five minutes without seeing any erratic driving).

For all we know, the "anonymous caller" could have been his ex trying to get him in trouble, or a member of a rival drug gang trying to get his payload confiscated....

Re:That wasn't the question (5, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 5 months ago | (#46823207)

Or more likely, a government agent with information obtained illegally.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (2)

GT66 (2574287) | about 5 months ago | (#46822607)

And if you think 911 calls are anonymous, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. Clarence alluded to the fact that 911 calls aren't really anonymous but he didn't want to just come out and give up the lie. "Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that 'a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers' as well as for recording their calls,"

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#46822757)

Yes but that information will not be included if the anonymous tip came from other police or from a burner phone located in the police car.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 5 months ago | (#46823185)

It's about as anonymous as an IP address.

And we've already had verdicts rendered on how useful they are for proving who did what.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (5, Informative)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 5 months ago | (#46822611)

Out congress critters gave themselves legislative plates it's the don't even think about it to a cop.

The Justices are pretty much immune to anything but impeachment by congress so they do not care either. They also have a permanent protection detail that reports only to them and the ability to cite for contempt.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (3, Informative)

workdot (1056402) | about 5 months ago | (#46822805)

I've got this hankerin' to call 911. This law could get repealed mighty quick if it's senators and congressmen getting pulled over from anonymous tips.

I like the logic, but the problem with that logic is that senators/congressmen/judges/state politicians etc usually have special license plates which make it clear that they are 'somebody'. Cops may see that and decide not to kick the hornets nest.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822915)

What about their spouses? Their children? Do they get the benefit of special plates too?

Just because a bad law does not affect them DIRECTLY doesn't mean they are completely immune to its repercussions. In fact, having his teenage daughter repeatedly stopped-n-frisked based on anonymous tips is probably even more likely to get the law repealed than if it were to happen to the politician himself.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822819)

Caller ID is a bitch

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 5 months ago | (#46822937)

It goes far beyond caller ID. They know your GPS location and they know your phone. Unless you know how to set up a burner phone (it's not overly simple in the US - most prepay companies verify billing address). E911 is not a normal phone call.

Re:Anybody know the plate# for each scotus? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 5 months ago | (#46823265)

Senators, Congressmen and SCOTUS get their own special license plates. The cops would simply decide that people of such distinction don't need to be investigated on such tips.

This is wrong! (3)

p51d007 (656414) | about 5 months ago | (#46822515)

I did 911 dispatching, off & on for 20 years. You know how many "anonymous" calls we received from payphones (back in the day) about someone having drugs in a car, house, or their person? Officers might keep an eye, but unless there was ANOTHER reason to stop and search, there wasn't anything LEGALLY they could do, as it should be!

Re:This is wrong! (2)

GoCrazy (1608235) | about 5 months ago | (#46822815)

It's like peeling a letigous onion.

The officers stopped the car under reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. The anonymous call was enough to equate to an eyewitness observation of erradict driving, according to this ruling.

In a separate issue, upon pulling the truck over the officer could recognize a potent marijuana smell, which under the Plain View Doctrine (that includes smell) [wikipedia.org] allowed them to search the truck.

Re:This is wrong! (4, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 5 months ago | (#46823007)

Funny how their sense of smell works. They can recognize a potent marijuana smell in a vehicle that has never contained marijuana if the occupants look like they smell like marijuana.

Re:This is wrong! (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 5 months ago | (#46823161)

In a separate issue, upon pulling the truck over the officer could recognize a potent marijuana smell, which under the Plain View Doctrine (that includes smell) [wikipedia.org] allowed them to search the truck.

Hmm, is there any proof of this smell? If not, it is equivalent to hearsay, wouldn't you say? And no, 2 policemen do not make 2 separate witnesses, especially for this case. You only have to point to lots and lots of historical lying by police to invalidate that argument on reasonable doubt grounds. But then again, "smell" by itself doesn't do much for them, they need something tangible. In this case, they found plenty.

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822531)

Does this seem like yet another easily fabricated excuse the police can use to search your property? Especially given that these are "anonymous", I imagine police could send in a false tip to have an excuse to search anyone they wanted. Perhaps it's just me, but I tend to think anything like this will be abused to the maximum extent possible.

Re:Uh... (5, Informative)

Le Marteau (206396) | about 5 months ago | (#46822631)

> Does this seem like yet another easily fabricated excuse the police can use to search your property?

Uh... no. No search is involved or permitted solely based on an anonymous tip... just pulling someone over. This falls under the "reasonable suspicion" standard for pulling someone over. They pulled me over for "accelerating too fast out of an intersection" at about the time the bars were closing... that was reasonable suspicion that I was drinking and driving and all they needed to pull me over even though there IS no crime for "accelerating too fast".

The "reasonable suspicion" standard is MUCH lower than "probable cause" which is required for a search. They still can't search you based on an anonymous tip... just pull you over and ask you questions, which you can of course refuse to answer.

People discussing this issue would do well to bone up on the difference between "reasonable suspicion" and "probable cause". People misuse the terms all the time... they are very different, and anyone who interacts with, or may interact with the police, should know what the terms mean.

Re:Uh... (4, Informative)

n1ywb (555767) | about 5 months ago | (#46822859)

This. The NPR article seems misleading. They stopped him based on the 911 call. Which seems reasonable to me. If some moron is driving like a fool I'd really like to cops to stop him. The probable cause for the SEARCH was due to the marijuana smell. I don't think this ruling is a broad as it's being made out to be.

Re:Uh... (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 5 months ago | (#46822953)

And this is exactly what happened, more or less. The search came after they smelled something (which I suppose is easy to lie about as long as they find something).

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822983)

I wasn't aware there was an acceleration limit on the books.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823253)

But, this allows any cop to harass you simply by calling 911 himself and giving a bullshit "anonymous tip" against you. There, reasonable suspicion rules thrown out the window.

Re:Uh... (1)

GT66 (2574287) | about 5 months ago | (#46822633)

Of course it is. The SCOTUS has been pro police state for years now.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822675)

The search was not based on the anonymous tip. The stop was based on the anonymous tip but the officers smelled marijuana during the stop which gave them probable cause to search the car. They did, in fact, find marijuana which suggests the officers weren't lying.

Not really ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823219)

That's not what the court held. The court held that in this case, the correlation between the tip and the vehicle's location, description and direction of travel, not the tip itself, was probably cause for the stop, and that the smell of the marajuana emitted from the truck was probably cause for the search.

The 911 calls are recorded, including the position from e911. You can easily spoof the location with magicjack, but the accusation of the "anonymous" tip being from the police should be adequate for the defense to get a subpeneo to identify the caller.

Now, for your house, let me present the counter-example. Let's say your'e suspicious that your neighbor is cooking meth, and that he'll shoot you if you call the cops (the second one is a reasonable fear). Should the cops be forced to disregard your call if you decline to give your name for fear of being shot? Should undocumented immigrants be denied justice and public proection because they're concerned that using their name will lead to deportation? There are two sides to this story.

Also, notably, the dissent rests on two assertions: The anonymous tipster not necessarily being aware that they are identifiable, and that the tip was not corroborated in anyway.

Does it also apply to homes? (5, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 5 months ago | (#46822553)

If someone who doesn't like me makes an "anonymous" call to 911 to report that I'm running meth lab in my garage, does that also give the cops the right to ransack my house looking for a meth lab?

It's sad that "probable cause" has been diluted to the point that it has.

Hasn't this already been going on with "anonymous" tips from the DEA and DHS leading to traffic stops where "parallel construction" is used to fabricate grounds for probable cause after the fact? I guess this ruling removes the need to do the whole "parallel construction" thing?

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 5 months ago | (#46822655)

Sadly this is already happening, usually run by the b/tards. Besides just sending pizzas, they have sent in tips and had police raids in full swat show up at peoples houses just based on anon tips

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 5 months ago | (#46822965)

If someone who doesn't like me makes an "anonymous" call to 911 to report that I'm running meth lab in my garage, does that also give the cops the right to ransack my house looking for a meth lab?

While the short answer might be yes, the officers will know pretty quickly, without ransacking your house, that you don't have a meth lab. At that point, the not really anonymous caller will be arrested and charged with filing a false report. You will also have civil actions against the perp. Their life has for all practical purposes been destroyed, and the evidence is solid.

Making false reports has been around forever. Using a modern phone to do that will document your crime, and will probably be the first piece of evidence

It's sad that "probable cause" has been diluted to the point that it has.

So what you are saying is that you do not think it should be legal to report drunk drivers? For Christ's sakes, this guy ran the woman off the road, was under the influence, and on slashdot - she is the bad guy. Now I want you to defend your statement. No one is anonymous on the phone, and your proposition that people shouldn't be allowed to call in crimes is only valid in slashdot world, where I swear half the posters need to stop watching the History2 channel for a few weeks.

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46823193)

For Christ's sakes, this guy ran the woman off the road, was under the influence, and on slashdot - she is the bad guy.

I gather that you have evidence that this woman was run off the road by this guy?

Other than her 911 call, I mean.

Did the police go to the site of the incident? Not that I've read anywhere.

Did the police take her statement officially? Again, I've not seen anything hint that they de-anonymized (is that a word? If not, it should be) her by actually talking to her or anything.

From all I've read, she called 911, reported something that got the police to hunting for the vehicle (which they found 18 miles from the purported incident), the police checked him for drunken driving, found he wasn't, then searched his car for drugs, found he was carrying a lot of weed.

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (0)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 5 months ago | (#46822973)

If someone who doesn't like me makes an "anonymous" call to 911 to report that I'm running meth lab in my garage, does that also give the cops the right to ransack my house looking for a meth lab?

A meth lab is quite big, so I don't think there is any justification for ransacking your house to find it. Just open every door and have a look into every room. And a call saying you're running a meth lab in your garage should clearly give them a warrant for the garage only.

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (5, Insightful)

omnichad (1198475) | about 5 months ago | (#46822995)

To equate it to something domestic, think of a noise complaint. The officer can come to your door and knock. If you answer and they see something inside, or they see something suspicous while they're there, they would still have to get a warrant. The difference in this case, is that they pulled someone over and smelled something. Pulling someone over does not require probable cause - only reasonable suspicion. The anonymous tip satisfies that just fine. The smell they found during the stop is the probable cause. And the car isn't quite so secure against search as a home. At least according to the courts.

Re:Does it also apply to homes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823139)

If they're lucky, lives and/or property will be lost. This is the price you pay for "extra security, through fear and loss of freedoms".

Of course they're okay with anonymous tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822565)

That way they don't need to pay out the fink money.

Empirical (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 5 months ago | (#46822575)

The empirical evidence in this case is that the tip was indeed reliable.

In some state odor of marijuana is in itself enough to justify a search.

Re:Empirical (1)

myth24601 (893486) | about 5 months ago | (#46822617)

Odor of pot? Heck, all they have to do is claim they smell alcohol (weather they do or not) and they have the go ahead to harass you for as long as they want.

Re:Empirical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822651)

The empirical evidence in this case is that the tip was indeed reliable.

In some state odor of marijuana is in itself enough to justify a search.

Anthony "The state can do no wrong" Scalia wrote the dissent. The car was tailed for 5 minutes by the police with the driver performing impeccably.
It's essentially the end of the 4th amendment.

4 of 9 agreed with him (5, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 months ago | (#46822583)

but we all agree that Seven of Nine is the most gorgeous...

Do you see the problem with this? (2)

hochl (759409) | about 5 months ago | (#46822597)

This way they can just call themselves anonymously and then search any car/house they like without violating any law.

Re:Do you see the problem with this? (0)

Imagix (695350) | about 5 months ago | (#46822857)

You're missing a bunch of parts, and the headline of this article is similarly misguided (the original title is not). The 911 call did nothing regarding the _search_. What the 911 call did was focus the attention of the police on a vehicle that was allegedly driving dangerously. They then pulled over the vehicle that was allegedly driving dangerously under the suspicion that the driver was impaired (remember, driving impaired is illegal). During that interaction they discovered further indications that drugs were involved and based on _that_ evidence a search of the vehicle was conducted. Where the dispute comes from is whether the police had sufficient suspicion about the original "driving while impaired" problem (and thus sufficient cause to pull the vehicle over). They'd apparently followed the vehicle for "5 minutes" and didn't see any indication of poor driving. _That's_ where the dissenting court opinion comes from, not about the search. (I've made that 911 call myself. And in one case, I'd actually saw the vehicle that I was reporting clip someone else and tore the mirror off of their car. They'd pulled over, but I bet he was rather surprised as how fast a police cruiser arrived on the scene....)

Re:Do you see the problem with this? (3, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 5 months ago | (#46823059)

The problem is that we know that this case seems likely to be one of parallel construction. There's a good chance this 'anonymous woman' worked for a three letter agency and had obtained unlawful evidence. Since that wouldn't be admissible in court, she called the local police, said that someone "forced her off the road *wink wink nudge nudge*", and she was able to present an unusual amount of detailed information for someone who was just run off the road.

Re:Do you see the problem with this? (1)

itsenrique (846636) | about 5 months ago | (#46823191)

THANK YOU! The issue is not this woman's case, but the precedent allowing anonymous tips would allow. As an aside: Why was the woman so worried about being anonymous? She was run off the road. She didn't witness a murder.

I am shocked. *Shocked* (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46822613)

I am dumbfounded and speechless. I am finding myself agreeing with Clarence "who put *that* on my coke can" Thomas! And shockingly Thomas is disagreeing with Scalia!. Who knows! Justice Thomas might actually summon up enough courage and mental faculties to frame a cogent question in the next hearing. Or the world could be coming to an end.

Re:I am shocked. *Shocked* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823011)

Thomas doesn't need to ask questions, his lobbyist wife knows all the answers that matter...

Re:I am shocked. *Shocked* (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46823235)

Justice Thomas might actually summon up enough courage and mental faculties to frame a cogent question in the next hearing.

Or maybe he'll continue believing it's the lawyers' job to provide the evidence, not the judges', and that just listening to their arguments is sufficient.

Free warrant! (3, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | about 5 months ago | (#46822637)

1) Police officer sees car he wants to search
2) Police officer calls 911 placing an anon tip
3) Police officer gets to do whatever the hell he wants.

historically, authority figures getting to do whatever the hell they want has worked out pretty well.

Re:Free warrant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822963)

An interesting conundrum. But surely our sage legal system has taken this into account. Obviously if an anonymous call "has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers" then this information will be provided during the court case as the accused has the right to challenge his accusers. Surely.

Re:Free warrant! (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46823209)

What measures did said officer take to avoid being fined for a fraudulent 911 emergency call? 911 calls are traced, you know... practically instantaneously, in fact.

Re:Free warrant! (3, Informative)

fey000 (1374173) | about 5 months ago | (#46823241)

1) Police officer sees car he wants to search

2) Police officer calls 911 placing an anon tip

3) Police officer gets to do whatever the hell he wants.

historically, authority figures getting to do whatever the hell they want has worked out pretty well.

Jesus tapdancing Christ, this has been refuted three times now. The tip did not warrant the search, the tip only warranted pulling the driver over. The marijuana smell warranted the search, something that was not introduced by this ruling. As for #2, did you even read the digest? The ruling only accounts for when anonymity does not hold.

Get the tinfoil hat out of your eyes and read TFA please.

DUI checkpoints (2, Interesting)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 5 months ago | (#46822657)

Just to play devil's advocate, how is this more invasive than DUI checkpoints?

Re:DUI checkpoints (2)

Entropius (188861) | about 5 months ago | (#46822713)

DUI checkpoints don't get to search your car. (But they are also a bad idea...)

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

Rhymoid (3568547) | about 5 months ago | (#46822813)

They don't? I don't know how they happen in the USA, but I'd think they're performed by police officers. If a police officer notices a strong marijuana smell (like in this stop & search), isn't that enough for a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, allowing a search anyway?

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

Vermonter (2683811) | about 5 months ago | (#46823039)

Yes, they can search based on suspicion. However, the checkpoint alone does not grant the police the right to search your vehicle. Now granted, all an officer has to do is *claim* to smell marijuana, so in practice the police can search any car they want at a checkpoint. But from a legal perspective, it is not so.

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 5 months ago | (#46823173)

Not really, since many officers can claim to smell marijuana in its complete absence. Make them verify the smell with some chemical test before they can search and you'll probably get a lot less searches since they aren't actually smelling weed.

Re:DUI checkpoints (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822845)

I don't think they meant to say that an anonymous 911 tip is grounds for a search, just to pull the car over. They were only able to search his car because they smelled marijuana. But in some states, like Massachusetts, just smelling marijuana is NOT grounds for a search, so all they could do is pull you over and hope they see a dead body in the back seat or something

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 5 months ago | (#46823021)

That's a weird law: smelling marijuana is reasonable suspicion of illegal activity which ought to trigger a search. Why, in this case, doesn't it? Smelling a decomposing corpse is reasonable suspicion, no?

It seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that marijuana prohibition is stupid but liked by Puritanical elements: "okay, we'll keep this illegal, to mollify you lot, but restrict how that is enforced." Why not just make the law consistent by getting rid of prohibition?

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

Rhymoid (3568547) | about 5 months ago | (#46822759)

The problem isn't how invasive it is, but how arbitrary it is. DUI checkpoints aren't as arbitrary as the 'legal' tool described in TFA.

Re:DUI checkpoints (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822843)

Completely unverifiable hearsay of anonymous tip (yes, this IS possible), vs. statistical likelihood that X% of drivers are drunk on road. Point is, there is data to support a DUI stop on well traveled roads. Where's the data to support that a random phone call by random person about a random event, warrants police inspection by anonymous entity? This SCOTUS ruling validates a police state, both on the roads, and on the sidewalks.

And I say this as someone who is against DUI stops!

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 months ago | (#46822873)

>Just to play devil's advocate, how is this more invasive than DUI checkpoints?

It's less invasive. DUI checkpoints are dragnets. In the case listed above, a guy called in to 9-11 to report that another driver had driven him off the road, and was driving recklessly around the freeway. This was considered adequate justification to conduct a traffic stop, at which point they found drugs in the car.

I actually don't see what the big deal is (Scali, I'm looking at you). People report things to the police all the time - if they can't follow up on them, then it sort of makes a mockery of citizens participating in keeping our streets safe.

It's not really an "anonymous" tip. As it was a 9-11 call, they presumably have the cell phone number for the person who called in, and could reasonably call them back and ask them to testify in court against the defendant if they needed to.

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

kwiecmmm (1527631) | about 5 months ago | (#46822899)

Or if he had gotten pulled over for speeding (or some other minor traffic violation) and the officer smelled the marijuana.

Re:DUI checkpoints (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 5 months ago | (#46823049)

With checkpoints, they have to provide notice, and an alternate route around the checkpoint (which is usually staffed, but that's another issue).

At the check point, you don't have to answer any questions. You just have to stop. IANAL, but you can watch this. [youtube.com]

Also, obligatory, Never talk to the police [youtube.com]

A boon for Parallel Construction (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about 5 months ago | (#46822695)

This is a boon to "parallel construction" [wikipedia.org]

I for one don't think that the accuser should ever be anonymous when it comes to court cases, since we would have a right to face them in a court of law. I think for reporting the guy down the street who keeps violating noise or lawn ordinances is a different story. As those never really go to court.

Re:A boon for Parallel Construction (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#46822765)

Exactly. Now, if cops want to search someone they don't have enough legal basis to search ... they will just have one of their officers call in an 'anonymous' call.

This is going to lead to police having more and more powers to conduct things without enough legal basis.

This is not a good thing.

Re:A boon for Parallel Construction (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 5 months ago | (#46823105)

I for one don't think that the accuser should ever be anonymous when it comes to court cases, since we would have a right to face them in a court of law.

Hint: an E911 call is not anonymous (in most cases). But even if they are, we're only talking about establishing reasonable suspicion. That's all it takes to make a traffic stop. Everything that happened beyond that is fully legal and by the book. The search was based on an odor which is also an established probable cause (although parallel construction could be an issue if they didn't actually smell anything).

Scalia is jumping the shark. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46822727)

In a scathing dissent, fellow conservative Scalia called the Thomas opinion a "freedom-destroying cocktail" that would encourage "malevolent" tipsters to make false reports. It matters not whether the caller gave details about her alleged accident. The issue, said Scalia, is "whether what she claimed to know was true."

Is Scalia seriously suggesting police can act on a tip only after proving that tipster is telling the truth? The operative word is "reasonable" suspicion. The number of false reports to 911 is vanishingly small, and there is very reasonable to believe the tipster was telling the truth.

Just last week he suggested seriously people unsatisfied with taxes should rebel. Wonder what would happen if people who strongly believe that "the citizens united decision was unconstitutional and dilutes the franchise of American citizens, and allows foreign non citizens to set up shell corporations to influence US elections" to pursue second amendment remedies against the SCOTUS. Lucky for Scalia most progressives still believe in elections, democracy, rule of law and that SCOTUS interpretation of the constitution is the only legal interpretation.

Re:Scalia is jumping the shark. (3, Insightful)

phillk6751 (654352) | about 5 months ago | (#46822939)

As to the inference that the truck's driver was drunk, Scalia pointed out that the police officers here followed the pickup for over five minutes — and "five minutes is a long time" — without any indication of drunken driving or even bad driving. "After today's opinion," said Scalia, "all of us on the road, and not just drug dealers, are at risk ... "

Actually sounds Scalia was the dissenting opinion, period. I tend to agree with the quoted point of view of Scalia...an anonymous 911 call prompts police to target this driver, the driver gives NO indication of dui/reckless/endangering driving, yet the cops STILL pull the guy over, and win in court because of a "technicality". Scalia is right, we are all at risk for abuse of power by cops (not only that, but the justice system ruling in favor of the loss of our freedoms that are OWED to us by the Constitution).

Re:Scalia is jumping the shark. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822949)

But with tips that are non-anonymous, the victim of a false tip could possibly sue the tipster.

Re:Scalia is jumping the shark. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46823027)

Regarding his suggestion to revolt over taxes, I'd like to point out that the colonies revolted over a single-digit percentage tax rate that didn't buy them any representation with the king.

Now there are places with double-digit sales taxes, and combined city, state and federal income taxes above 50%. On top of that, the average citizen still has no more actual representation than the residents of the colonies did in the mid 1700s.

Re:Scalia is jumping the shark. (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 5 months ago | (#46823217)

Is Scalia seriously suggesting police can act on a tip only after proving that tipster is telling the truth?

As much as I hate to find myself anywhere near Scalia (through he's joined here by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan), police can legitimately act on a tip only after proving that a tipster is *likely* to be telling the truth. In this case, after following the car for five minutes and not seeing anything that gave them suspicion that the driver was drunk, there's no way that they could have reasonable suspicion this guy was a drunk driver. Given the documented existence of SWATing [wikipedia.org] , anonymous tips cannot be considered credible grounds for intrusion into a person's liberty.

Interestingly, in this case the tip was not anonymous [supremecourt.gov] , but that fact wasn't brought up in the original prosecution and so the tip is dealt with as anonymous.

Lucky for Scalia most progressives still believe in elections, democracy, rule of law and that SCOTUS interpretation of the constitution is the only legal interpretation.

Really? You believe that most progressives believe that in 1857, no person of African descent could be a citizen of a state [wikipedia.org] , despite zero evidence for this decision in the text of the Constitution? And that in 1896, states could comply with the equal protection clause via "separate but equal" bullshit [wikipedia.org] ? Well, it does seem that "progressive" has been defined downwards since Obama came into office.

Human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and SCOTUS decisions, are areas that overlap sometimes but not always. Genuine progressives put human rights before the others.

Parallel Construction. (4, Insightful)

Jahoda (2715225) | about 5 months ago | (#46822747)

Parallel Construction. You'll pardon me if I don't believe a single word from the mouths of our American "law enforcement" and "justice" system. Amazing that he just happened to have those 30 pounds of weed.

Re:Parallel Construction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822887)

BINGO !

I am an anonymous nut, so I don't have modpoints. Have an anon-modpoint from me.

Stupid summaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822767)

He was pulled over because of a report from a concerned driver. (For all the cop knew, the suspect could have been drunk)

Detecting drugs is a reasonable cause to search a vehicle or residence. The cop smelled herb, and searched the car.

Quit hauling 30lbs of herb around and I'm sure you'll stop getting busted.

Interesting lineup of dissenters (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | about 5 months ago | (#46822811)

Gotta love when Ginsbur, Kagan, and Sotomayor agree with Scalia

Better than an unverifiable barking dog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822867)

This is way better than a search predicated on the interpretation of signs from a dog by THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO SEARCH.
Why don't they just allow criminal divining rods, that would make it way easier?

On the plus side, it makes us safer. I think after all the CSI shows people thinks crimes are solved by following evidence. I am pretty sure at this point more major crimes are solved by random car stops and searches for small things.

Re:Better than an unverifiable barking dog. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 5 months ago | (#46823117)

It likely depends upon how you define 'major crime.' Random searches are probably identifying more people transporting drugs, but aren't catching murderers, thieves, rapists, embezzlers, human traffickers, or anyone engaging in assault.

Crime Stoppers (1)

TJEx (3343267) | about 5 months ago | (#46822879)

They want your information not your name. One does not need to call crime stoppers just to report a unsolved crime but a undiscovered crime and no one is calling now to report someone who they don't like to get them in trouble for their stash.

Genuine 911 call? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46822979)

From the ruling, the call identified the vehicle by model, colour, and plate. I have no problem with stopping and searching the vehicle on the basis of a genuine non-anonymous call - but what if there was no 911 call, or if the police themselves placed the call?

The dissenters didn't explicitly mention such a possibility but, reading between the lines, they seemed to be aware of it.

Can we fix the title? (1)

GoCrazy (1608235) | about 5 months ago | (#46822993)

The ruling doesn't include "search", it only OK's stopping/pulling over.

The "search" is a separate issue backed by the Plain View Doctrine.

Scalia Never Met An Unreasonable Search (-1, Troll)

HangingChad (677530) | about 5 months ago | (#46823115)

Scalia never met a search he considers unreasonable. Assuming 911 calls can be tracked and callers identified assumes the caller is not actively avoiding identification. There are lots of ways to game the phone system but Scalia seems pretty ignorant when it comes to technology. The biggest favor he could do the country is choking on his lunch.

Yet again a convenience ruling (1)

ehiris (214677) | about 5 months ago | (#46823267)

This is another ruling that is based on finding something that they think would give the victim (defendant) too much power, allowing him to skirt the law, and not based on true legality.

It re-confirms that the justices are nothing more than senile elderly people who work with and for the enforcement industry and don't really care about upholding the constitution.

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