Supreme Court Rules Officers Can Stop Cars Based on Anonymous Tips

The 5-4 decision may be a concern for African-American drivers.

Posted: 04/25/2014 11:31 AM EDT
Supreme Court Rules Officers Can Stop Cars Based on Anonymous Tips

The Supreme Court ruled this week that police officers could stop and search a vehicle based on an anonymous 911 tip. The 5-4 decision upholds a previous ruling made by California courts.

Police have the authority to stop and question cars that have been swerving or speeding, even if they have not observed this activity themselves.

Lorenzo and Jose Navarette were at the center of the case. In 2008, the two men were driving a pickup truck and were stopped by police after they fit a description of a vehicle given in a tip. They were suspected of pushing another car off the road in Mendocino County, California.

During the search officers uncovered 30 pounds of marijuana and the men were convicted of trafficking. They appealed the ruling and said the officers violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment. But the court decided that officers are now justified in taking action and possibly arresting individuals in these situations.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissents the ruling, has called it a “freedom-destroying cocktail.” He criticizes the fact that a person can give a tip without revealing their identity and suffer no consequences in the case that their claim is false.

Specifically for young African-American men, this ruling can be a cause for concern. One in four under the age of 35 said that they had experienced unfair police dealings within the past 30 days in a national Gallup poll in July 2013. Traffic stops with police were listed right behind shopping as activities in which they felt most violated.

Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege

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