The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving a DWI arrest based upon an anonymous tip. Albuquerque and Bernalillo County officials appear unconcerned with the Court‘s ruling. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White stated “Believe me, I can tell you when a person‘s impaired.”
The case itself involved an anonymous tip where the driver was pulled over despite the fact that the officer had not observed any indications in the driver‘s driving behavior indicating DWI/DUI.
The fact is a stop like the one in the Virginia case would plainly violate the requirement of reasonable suspicion for a DWI/DUI stop. Without the reasonable suspicion requirement, officers would be free to pull drivers over without any reason whatsoever. The hazards and possible abuses are clear allowing officers to pull over drivers for countless illegitimate reasons.
Darren White states further that New Mexico law protects the innocent driver who has swerved in a traffic lane, but is not under the influence. What Sheriff White fails to appreciate is that many innocent drivers may be subject to illegal stops based upon ill motivated anonymous tips. Little imagination is required to understand the many possible motivations that might lead to an illegitimate anonymous tip.
In fact, there is little protection for the innocent driver as Sheriff White suggests. Instead, a stop lacking reasonable suspicion results in a gross violation of privacy, and the right against unlawful search and seizure. The result is that many innocent drivers can be pulled over and subjected to the stressful, embarrassing and humiliating battery of DWI tests so that they must prove they are not under the influence to a police officer who may already be convinced or otherwise biased toward a finding of DWI/DUI.
In fact, New Mexico law, which thankfully applies to Albuquerque Police and Bernalillo County Sheriffs despite Sheriff Whites apparent belief to the contrary, requires that the stopping officer actually observe driving that indicates DWI/DUI. An anonymous tip is not sufficient for a stop. Of course, it takes very little effort on the part of a determined police officer to find a reason for a stop.
With the rash of under the limits DWI/DUI arrests in Albuquerque, and the recent revelation of DWI/DUI quotas for Albuquerque Police Officers, this requirement offers little real protection or comfort for Albuquerque drivers rendering the right of privacy and protection against unlawful search & seizure in our cars meaningless.