Many states have tried different methods to combat against driving under the influence (DUI) because it has been found to be so dangerous. One strategy has been the creation of “DUI Tip Lines” or “Crime Stoppers” tip lines. Police departments all across the country have call-in voice mailboxes, where a citizen can leave an anonymous tip about someone they believe is driving drunk. The police then have the ability to take various approaches, and some have chosen to seek the potential drunk driver out and arrest them before they can do any harm. The first step in this process is making an investigative traffic stop to see if the suspected drunk driver is going to be charged with a DUI.

When Can an Officer Make an Traffic Stop Based on a DUI Tip?

Because DUI tips generally come from a citizen, and not a law enforcement officer, there are two competing interests involved: keeping other motorists safe versus protecting personal security from government invasion.  That is why most states require a police officer to have a “reasonable suspicion” sufficient to justify an investigative traffic stop.  Reasonable suspicion generally requires less facts and circumstances to justify an investigative traffic stop than probable cause.

What Equals Reasonable Suspicion for an Investigative Traffic Stop?

In order for a police officer to form reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify an investigative traffic stop based on a citizen’s anonymous DUI tip, two things must exist:

  1. The DUI tip was sufficiently precise and not overly vague, and
  2. The activity the DUI tip describes is sufficiently dangerous to the rest of society.

It is not exactly clear what is sufficiently precise and sufficiently dangerous activity. Past cases have held a police investigative traffic stop to be justified when an anonymous citizen called the police, gave the general make and model of the vehicle in question, and its location, in connection with one of the following activities:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Illegally parked and creating a traffic hazard,
  • Reckless driving, or
  • Waiving a weapon at other motorists.

What Does Not Equal Reasonable Suspicion?

Police officers do not have reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify an investigative traffic stop based on a citizen’s anonymous DUI tip if that suspicion is founded upon:

  • Curiosity
  • Rumors
  • A hunch

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you have been charged with a DUI, and the information the police relied upon to make their investigative traffic stop was a DUI tip, it is strongly recommended that you contact a DUI/DWI lawyer. Only a criminal defense attorney will be able to explain the issues and help in any successful defense.