There are times when the police conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle based upon a tip from a citizen that the vehicle was driving erratically. Sometimes, this is a tip from another driver. When the police observe traffic violations that, by themselves, justify a traffic stop, courts need not analyze the reliability of the citizen’s tip in determining whether the traffic stop was valid. However, the police often gather little to no evidence prior to conducting a traffic stop. In those instances, courts must analyze the reliability of the tip. In other words, the courts ask: “can police pull you over based on a tip from another driver?”
In analyzing the reliability of the tip, informants are divided into three classes:
(1) the anonymous informant;
(2) the known informant; and
(3) the identified citizen informant.
The anonymous informant is usually considered unreliable and will require that the police gather evidence that corroborates the tip prior to conducting a traffic stop. In other words, the police need to look for driving behavior that matches the information in the tip.
The known informant is usually someone that the police have used before. If that person’s previous tips have proved to be reliable, the courts can consider that fact in determining whether the police have made a valid traffic stop. The identified citizen informant is someone who identified themselves by name. The identification provides some reliability because giving false statements would subject that person to potential criminal charges.
When the police rely on an informant in conducting a traffic stop, filing a motion to suppress is a good way to challenge the stop. Without reasonable suspicion to justify the stop, the stop is invalid.
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If you have questions about traffic stops or any other traffic law issue, contact your Wadsworth OVI Attorney in Medina County, Attorney Daniel F. Gigiano, at 330-336-3330.