If you drive a car, you will want to see how the Supreme Court changed the idea of "reasonable suspicion" when it comes to a police officer searching your car.
In a 5-4 majority vote, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can stop and search a vehicle based on an anonymous tip regardless of it being true or false. Standard police protocol is generally to respond to a call that a vehicle is driving recklessly, make sure the car was driving dangerously then stop the motorist. The new ruling by the Supreme Court makes it extremely easy for police to pull over a driver based on an anonymous tip.
That sequence of events did not happen in a California case, Prado Navarette et al v. California. In 2008, Mendocino County police were called because a pickup truck forced another car off the road. The call made the police officers thinks that the driver was drunk. Highway patrol followed the truck. Although the officers saw no signs that the driver was intoxicated, they pulled him over anyways. After smelling marijuana, the officers decided to search the vehicle. They found 30 pounds of marijuana.
The search of the pickup tuck raises a big concern. Under what circumstances can a police officer search your car? The Fourth Amendment allows a police officer to investigate a car briefly when they have a "reasonable suspicion" to suspect a person is taking part in criminal activity. The whole situation, or the totality of circumstances, is taken into consideration when a police officer decides a search is justified. However, anonymous tips in the past have not been sufficient to determine that a search was acceptable.
In the case of Prado Navarette, he argued the search of his pickup truck came without any "reasonable suspicion." The Supreme Court, however, thought that the stop was acceptable because the tip, from a phone call, was reliable when taking into account the entire situation. The anonymous tip, whether true or false, warranted a search because the caller was able to describe of the truck and provide the license plate number.
This Supreme Court ruling not only changes the common policy that police officers must verify an anonymous tip before conducting a search, but also creates the possibility of police officers making up information and acting as if they were anonymously made aware of criminal activity.