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States, feds divided over anonymous 911 calls for traffic stops

States, feds divided over anonymous 911 calls for traffic stops

State and federal courts have been divided in their opinions on whether police can pull over a car just because of an anonymous 911 call. Sometimes drivers are not paying attention and might make a slight mistake while driving, causing another driver to call 911 to report an alleged drunk or reckless driver.

The Supreme Court will hear a case this January to answer the question of whether police can pull a car over, solely based on a 911 call reporting a potential drunk or reckless driver, not with any corroboration by police of the person's actions. This ruling could have national effects and result in many more people being pulled over and subjected to police questioning.

The case that will be heard before the Court in January is that of two men who were pulled over in another state because of an anonymous 911 call in which the caller gave an accurate description of the model, color and license plate of the vehicle. Police then pulled the car over and searched it after reportedly smelling marijuana.

The men later pleaded guilty after police say they found four bags of marijuana. The Supreme Court had previous declined to hear a case in which a high state court said that a 911 call alone was not enough to allow police to stop a vehicle.

Although this case doesn't involve New Jersey directly, a decision by the Supreme Court could affect how traffic stops and other drug crime cases are conducted across the country. Rulings can sometimes be narrow, only effecting a specific case, or broad where it changes how laws are interpreted across the country.

Source: Associated Press, "Court: Is anonymous tip enough for traffic stop?" Mark Sherman, Oct. 1, 2013

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