The Ever Eroding 4th Amendment

In an opinion released by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, 2014, the Court furthered the erosion of the 4th Amendment.  In Prado Navarette v. California, the Court essentially said that it’s “OK” to pull over a vehicle based upon an anonymous tip and little else.  The Petitioner was pulled over after an anonymous 911 caller stated that Petitioner ran her off the road five minutes earlier and gave an accurate description of the truck, which was found driving roughly in the area reported.  California Highway Patrol responded and followed the Petitioner’s vehicle for five minutes without any evidence of dangerous driving.

The Court stretched and stretched until it found the call was reliable, largely because it was a 911 call, based on a supposed eyewitness event.  The Court surmised that the 911 call was recorded and would prevent false reports, although absolutely nothing was gleaned about the caller other that she was female.  The Court then suggests that a vehicle running another off the road is an indication of drunk driving justifying a stop.

Only the minority lead by Justice Scalia got this one right.  The dissent asserts correctly that this ruling will allow law enforcement to pull over a vehicle simply based upon an anonymous caller asserting an uncorroborated instance of alleged bad driving if they can give a description and location of the suspect vehicle.  The majority ignores the fact that the call may be false or vindictive.  It’s simply an allegation coupled with information anyone on that highway could have given.

This is simply a scary holding as anyone in traffic that has an axe to grind with another driver can call in an anonymous tip and have them pulled over.  Even if the police know who the caller is, they may simply make a false allegation and the innocent driver will likely be the one having the consequence, police vs. driver or driver vs. driver.