Know Your Rights! Florida v. J.L.: SCOTUS Unanimously ruled that Anonymous Tips & Suspicion are NOT Enough for "Probable Cause!"Submitted by AnCapMercenary on Wed, 05/15/2013 - 13:50
A police officer may not legally stop and frisk anyone based solely on an anonymous tip that simply described that person's location and appearance without information as to any illegal conduct that the person might be planning.
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Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000), held that a police officer may not legally stop and frisk anyone based solely on an anonymous tip that simply described that person's location and what he or she might look like but that did not furnish information as to any illegal conduct that the person might be planning.
Facts and procedural history
In 1995 the Miami-Dade Police received an anonymous tip that a young black male was at a bus stop wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a firearm. The police went to the bus stop and saw three young black men, one wearing a plaid shirt. Acting solely on the tip (the officers did not observe any criminal or suspicious behavior), they searched all three, and found a pistol in the pocket of the man wearing the plaid shirt.
The trial court granted the juvenile defendant's motion to suppress evidence as fruit of an unreasonable search and seizure. However, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court. J.L. appealed the decision to the Florida Supreme Court, which quashed the decision of the District Court, holding that the tip did not give sufficient indicia of reliability to justify a stop and frisk of the subject. The appellee sought certiorari review from the United States Supreme Court.
Holding and rationale
The United States Supreme Court held in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the search was unreasonable. That the tip accurately identified the defendant and that the allegation of the firearm ultimately proved to be accurate was insufficient to justify the seizure. For a completely anonymous tip to justify even a "stop and frisk" of a suspect pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), it must be "suitably corroborated" with both the accurate prediction of future activity of the subject and accurate in its assertion of potential criminal activity. The tip given in the J.L. case was only sufficient to identify the subject and nothing more, making the police reliance upon it unjustified.
The Court further declined to create a standard "firearms exception" to the Terry doctrine, It was unlawful but the man was detained, as was recognized in some Federal circuits, stating, among other things, that "Such an exception would enable any person seeking to harass another to set in motion an intrusive, embarrassing police search of the targeted person simply by placing an anonymous call falsely reporting the target's unlawful carriage of a gun . . ."