A tip from a 911 caller together with an officer’s observations provided reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, holds the court of appeals.
The anonymous caller reported seeing a man “dump” a Harley-type motorcycle, said the man had trouble getting the motorcycle back up and appeared intoxicated, and that once he righted the bike he drove away. An officer drove to the vicinity and found a Harley-type motorcycle, which stayed stopped at an intersection for an unusually long period of time after the officer drove through the intersection. The officer then followed the motorcycle and stopped it. (¶¶3-6).
The officer could rely on the anonymous tip because it had indicia of reliability: The caller used the 911 system, which generally has “some features that allow for identifying and tracing callers” such that “a false tipster would think twice before using the system.” Navarette v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1683, 1689-90 (2014). Indeed, the 911 report disclosed both the phone number and a nearby address of the 911 caller, which could be used to identify the caller. (¶14). The tip also provided information that supported an inference the caller had observed the incident firsthand, and the officer could and did corroborate direction of travel. (¶15). Finally, the tip provided information supporting suspicion of criminal behavior, as “a reasonable police officer could infer motorcycle riders typically do not ‘dump’ their motorcycles in a roadway without reason, particularly because … there was neither a weather problem nor much traffic that night.” (¶16).
In addition to the tip, the officer, based on his training and experience, could reasonably infer from his observation of the motorcycle’s “prolonged stop” that the driver was seeking to avoid the officer and thus might be intoxicated. (¶¶18-19).