Monday, June 26, 2006

People v. Wells (Cal. Supreme Court - June 26, 2006)

It's not surprising that this one is close. The issue is whether an anonymous 911 tip that a particular car is weaving all over the highway is sufficient reasonable suspicion of DUI to permit the police to stop the car, even though the police don't themselves see anything wrong that would justify a stop. We know from the Supreme Court's opinion in Florida v. J.L. that an anonymous tip that a particular person at a bus stop is carrying a gun doesn't constitute reasonable suspicion for a stop. What about here?

It's an issue that has divided the various state and lower federal courts. And now the California Supreme Court weighs in. Holding, in a 4-3 opinion, that the anonymous tip is indeed sufficient to justify the search.

Justice Chin writes the majority opinion, which is joined by Chief Justice George, Justice Corrigan, and -- interestingly -- Justice Croskey (of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District), sitting by designation. Justice Werdegar writes the dissent, joined by Justices Kennard and Moreno.

It's not every day that you have the swing vote in the California Supreme Court sitting by designation. So that's something worth noting. Plus, it's also worth mention that, next time you want to get a friend (or an enemy) busted -- or merely harassed -- it'll be sufficient simply to call in an anonymous report that they're weaving all over the road. That's good enough for a stop.

A tough case.