• North Carolina Criminal Law | Understand How an Anonymous Tip Can Be Used
  • October 24, 2012
  • Law Firm: Matheson Law Office PLLC - Raleigh Office
  • Most Americans will hopefully never be held in suspicion of Criminal Activity , which would lead to some sort of Police Intervention. Regardless, knowing what information a Police Officer can act on when stopping and searching an individual is important. In the state of North Carolina where I am a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer, if you are charged with a North Carolina Felony, North Carolina Misdemeanor, or North Carolina Driving While Intoxicated this article applies. There are instances where anonymous tips can lead a Police Officer to detain an individual in order to ascertain whether or not the anonymously given information is in fact true. Therefore, this article will discuss the requirements that have been laid out by the United States Supreme Court for a Police Officer to act on an anonymous tip in Florida vs. J.L. The case Florida vs. J.L. involved an anonymous tip given regarding a juvenile at a bus stop. This anonymous information alleged that a young black male with a plaid shirt at the bus stop was carrying a concealed gun. A Police Officer went to the bus stop and observed three young black men standing there, only one wearing a plaid shirt. Without witnessing any other criminal activity, the Police Officer temporarily detained the individuals and then searched them. A gun was discovered on the man wearing the plaid shirt but the case was dismissed at Trial Court because the gun that was discovered in an unreasonable search and seizure. The Florida Court of Appeals overturned the lower court, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the Trial Court. The case got appealed to the United States Supreme Court who, in unanimous decision, that the search and seizure was unreasonable in violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. In order for the Police to act on an anonymous tip, certain information is needed to corroborate the tip. The anonymous tip must accurately describe the individual, but it must also accurately predict future activity of the subject as well as be accurate in its claim of the potential criminal activity. The reasoning behind this it that if people have more information there is a higher degree of believability to the tip that is provided. There are obviously some people who believe the standards should be lowered instead of raised when It comes to Police Officers being able to use anonymous tips to prevent criminal activity. However, they should consider how easy it would be to abuse a lower standard. With a lower standard anyone could call in criminal activity and give a description of a person and have the Police come to the scene and harass that individual, wasting valuable police resources. So this standard set by the Supreme Court in Florida vs. J.L. is an equal balance of assisting Police to prevent criminal activity and upholding the fundamental rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. In a prior article I discussed the Terry Stop and what limitations there are for a Police Officer’s use of ‘Stop and Frisk’. This article is written in supplement to the ‘Terry’ article. For information regarding your specific case, speak with a local criminal attorney.

    Disclaimer - Information and advice offered in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is specific to North Carolina law. The viewing, receipt and/or exchange of information from this article does not constitute an Attorney-Client Relationship. For assistance regarding your particular legal question speak with an Attorney practicing in the field from which your questions derives.