Chicago – The Supreme Court in the case of Narvarette v. California, 188 L.Ed. 2d 680, April 22, 2014, ruled that an anonymous report of a traffic violation justified the stop of a vehicle. In this case, a five to four opinion, the majority opinion is written by Justice Thomas and the dissent by Justice Scalia. This case concerns whether an anonymous tip to 911 can justify the stop of a vehicle under the Fourth Amendment.
Here are the facts. A 911-dispatch center for the California Highway Patrol received a 911 call that a pickup truck ran the caller off the road. The caller gave a description of the vehicle, license plate number, and location. The dispatcher relayed the following: “Showing southbound Highway 1 at mile marker 88. Silver Ford 150 pickup. Plate of 8-David-94925. Ran the reporting party off the roadway and was last seen approximately five [minutes] ago.” Officers found the truck, followed it for about five minutes, did not observe any traffic violations, and pulled the truck over. When approaching the truck the officers smelled marijuana and a search found 30 pounds of it.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, asserting that the police lacked a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when they stopped his car. The defendant lost at the trial court level and on appeal to the California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court denied review. Continue reading