572 U.S. 393 (2014), 12-9490, Navarette v. California

Docket Nº:12-9490
Citation:572 U.S. 393, 134 S.Ct. 1683, 188 L.Ed.2d 680, 82 U.S.L.W. 4282, 24 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 690
Opinion Judge:Thomas, Justice
Party Name:LORENZO PRADO NAVARETTE AND JOSE PRADO NAVARETTE, Petitioners v. CALIFORNIA
Attorney:Paul R. Kleven argued the cause for petitioners. Rachel P. Kovner argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court. Jeffrey M. K. Laurence argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined, post, p. 404. JUSTICE Scalia, with whom JUSTICE Ginsburg, JUSTICE Sotomayor, and JUST...
Case Date:April 22, 2014
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 393

572 U.S. 393 (2014)

134 S.Ct. 1683, 188 L.Ed.2d 680, 82 U.S.L.W. 4282, 24 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 690

LORENZO PRADO NAVARETTE AND JOSE PRADO NAVARETTE, Petitioners

v.

CALIFORNIA

No. 12-9490

United States Supreme Court

April 22, 2014

Argued January 21, 2014

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT

SYLLABUS[*]

[188 L.Ed.2d 684] [134 S.Ct. 1685] A California Highway Patrol officer stopped the pickup truck occupied by petitioners because it matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As he and a second officer approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. They searched the truck's bed, found 30 pounds of marijuana, and arrested petitioners. Petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. Their motion was denied, and they pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop.

Held: The traffic stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the truck's driver was intoxicated. Pp. 396-404, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 686-691.

(a) The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops when an officer has " a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of . . . criminal activity." United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-418, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621. Reasonable suspicion takes into account " the totality of the circumstances," id., at 417, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621, and depends " upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability," Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301. An anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates sufficient reliability, White, 496 U.S. at 329, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301, but may do so under appropriate circumstances, id., at 329, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301. Pp. 396-398, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 686-687.

[134 S.Ct. 1686] (b) The 911 call in this case bore adequate indicia of reliability for the officer to credit the caller's account. By reporting that she had been run off the road by a specific vehicle, the caller necessarily claimed an eyewitness basis of knowledge. The apparently short time between the reported incident and the 911 call suggests that the caller had little time to fabricate the report. And a reasonable officer could conclude that a false tipster would think twice before using the 911 system, which has several technological and regulatory features that safeguard against making false reports with immunity. Pp. 398-401, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 687-689.

(c) Not only was the tip here reliable, but it also created reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. Running another car off the road suggests the sort of impairment that characterizes drunk driving. While that conduct might be explained by another cause such as driver distraction,

Page 394

reasonable suspicion " need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct." United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 277, 122 S.Ct. 744, 151 L.Ed.2d 740. Finally, the officer's failure to observe [188 L.Ed.2d 685] additional suspicious conduct during the short period that he followed the truck did not dispel the reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, and the officer was not required to surveil the truck for a longer period. Pp. 401-404, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 689-691.

Affirmed.

Paul R. Kleven argued the cause for petitioners.

Rachel P. Kovner argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court.

Jeffrey M. K. Laurence argued the cause for respondent.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined, post, p. 404.

OPINION

Page 395

Thomas, Justice

After a 911 caller reported that a vehicle had run her off the road, a police officer located the vehicle she identified during the call and executed a traffic stop. We hold that the stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.

I

On August 23, 2008, a Mendocino County 911 dispatch team for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) received a call from another CHP dispatcher in neighboring Humboldt County. The Humboldt County dispatcher relayed a tip from a 911 caller, which the Mendocino County team recorded as follows: " 'Showing southbound Highway 1 at mile marker 88, Silver Ford 150 pickup. Plate of 8-David-94925. [134 S.Ct. 1687] Ran the reporting party off the roadway and was last seen approximately five [minutes] ago.'" App. 36a. The Mendocino County team then broadcast that information to CHP officers at 3:47 p.m.

A CHP officer heading northbound toward the reported vehicle responded to the broadcast. At 4:00 p.m., the officer passed the truck near mile marker 69. At about 4:05 p.m., after making a U-turn, he pulled the truck over. A second officer, who had separately responded to the broadcast, also arrived on the scene. As the two officers approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. A search of the truck bed revealed 30 pounds of marijuana. The officers arrested the

Page 396

driver, petitioner Lorenzo Prado Navarette, and the passenger, petitioner José Prado Navarette.

Petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment because the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Both the Magistrate who presided over the suppression hearing and the Superior Court disagreed. 1 Petitioners pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana and were sentenced to 90 days in jail plus three years of probation.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop. 2012 WL 4842651 (Oct. 12, 2012). The court reasoned [188 L.Ed.2d 686] that the content of the tip indicated that it came from an eyewitness victim of reckless driving, and that the officer's corroboration of the truck's description, location, and direction established that the tip was reliable enough to justify a traffic stop. Id., at *7. Finally, the court concluded that the caller reported driving that was sufficiently dangerous to merit an investigative stop without waiting for the officer to observe additional reckless driving himself. Id., at *9. The California Supreme Court denied review. We granted certiorari, 570 U.S. 948, 570 U.S. 948, 134 S.Ct. 50, 186 L.Ed.2d 963 (2013), and now affirm.

II

The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops--such as the traffic stop in this case--when a law enforcement officer has " a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity." United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-418, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621

Page 397

(1981); see also Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). The " reasonable suspicion" necessary to justify such a stop " is dependent upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability." Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990). The standard takes into account " the totality of the circumstances--the whole picture." Cortez, supra, at 417, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621 (1981). Although a mere " 'hunch'" does not create reasonable suspicion, Terry, supra, at 27, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), the level of suspicion the standard requires is " considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence," and " obviously less" than is necessary for probable cause, United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 104 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989).

[134 S.Ct. 1688] A

These principles apply with full force to investigative stops based on information from anonymous tips. We have firmly rejected the argument " that reasonable cause for a[n investigative stop] can only be based on the officer's personal observation, rather than on information supplied by another person." Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 32 L.Ed.2d 612 (1972). Of course, " an anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates the informant's basis of knowledge or veracity." White, 496 U.S., at 329, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990) (emphasis added). That is because " ordinary citizens generally do not provide extensive recitations of the basis of their everyday observations," and an anonymous tipster's veracity is " 'by hypothesis largely unknown, and unknowable.'" Ibid. But under appropriate circumstances, an anonymous tip can demonstrate " sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make [an] investigatory stop." Id., at 327, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990).

Our decisions in Alabama v. White, supra, 496 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990), and Florida v. J. L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 146 L.Ed.2d 254 (2000), are useful guides. In White, an anonymous tipster told the police that a woman would drive from a particular apartment building to a particular motel in a brown Plymouth station wagon with a broken right tail light. The tipster further asserted that the woman would

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be [188 L.Ed.2d 687] transporting cocaine. 496 U.S., at 327, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990). After confirming the innocent details, officers stopped the station wagon as it neared the motel and found cocaine in the vehicle. Id., at 331, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990). We held...

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