Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unidentified Tipster’s Tip Can be Sufficient for Probable Cause for Stop

Salt Lake City v. Street, 2011 UT App 111 (Utah Court of Appeals, April 14, 2011).
Street convicted of driving under the influence.  He appealed based on the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence arising from the stop because the stop was based on a tip from an unidentified tipster. 
The tipster, while accompanied by her children in the park, reported to police that she saw a man passed out in his car near the park with a child in the vehicle.  She provided a description of the car and location of the vehicle.  The officer stopped the car based on that tip alone; he witnessed no erratic driving.
The Court of Appeals found that when assessing whether a tip is sufficient to warrant a stop the trial court must evaluate three factors: (1) Reliability of the informant, (2) the detail of the information, and (3) corroboration of the tip by the officer’s own observations. 
In this case, the informant was reliable because she approached the officer with her children, sought nothing in return for her information, and did not attempt to hide her identity.  Further, she provided adequate detail to allow the officer to identify the vehicle.  Lastly, all the information that she provided was corroborated when the officer found the car and Street with his child.
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