US Supreme Court: Anonymous Tips Sufficient for Warrantless Vehicle Searches


EspañolAs of April 22, a warrant is merely a formality for police conducting searches, thanks to a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision that allows law enforcement to stop and search a driver on an anonymous tip.

The driver in the Prado Navarette vs. California case was the target of an anonymous 9-11 call that alleged “reckless driving,” but even when officers saw no evidence of intoxication after following the driver for several miles, they still pulled him over and found marijuana in his car.

The majority opinion claimed that “a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers.” Justice Antonin Scalia’s “scathing dissent,” however, condemned this ruling as a “freedom-destroying cocktail.”

In the dissenting opinion, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elana Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Scalia warn that “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.”

The dissenting justices remind readers that the millions of drivers on the road every day are all “at risk of having [their] freedom of movement curtailed on suspicion of drunkenness, based upon a phone tip, true or false, of a single instance of careless driving.”


Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time