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San Francisco DUI Attorney: Case Law Blog

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Stop Lawful Where Tipster Provides
Sufficient Details and Means To Identify Caller
U.S. v. Chavez , - F.3d - -, 2011 WL 4925884 (C.A.10 (N.M.))

Whether a tip provides reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop is case-specific. Although no single factor is dispositive, relevant factors include: (1) whether the informant lacked “true anonymity" (i.e., whether the police knew some details about the informant or had means to discover them); (2) whether the informant reported contemporaneous, firsthand knowledge; (3) whether the informant provided detailed information about the events observed; (4) the informant's stated motivation for reporting the information; and (5) whether the police were able to corroborate information provided by the informant.

"All of these factors were present in this case. First, although the caller did not provide dispatchers with his name, he told them he was a Wal–Mart employee at a specific Wal–Mart store and thereby provided the police with information to discover his identity. Second, he stated he had witnessed the events in the parking lot firsthand. Third, he provided the dispatchers with detailed information about the events he witnessed, including the model of each vehicle involved in the disturbance and each vehicle's license plate number. Fourth, he explained he was calling to report a disturbance in his employer's parking lot, which explained his motivation for reporting the incident to police. Finally, Officer McColley verified some of the information provided by the caller—including that there was a black pickup truck and a white Cadillac in the parking lot—before stopping Mr. Chavez. Based on these circumstances, we hold that the caller's tip bore “sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop."

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