State Supremes say anonymous tips sufficient to detain drivers

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 4:55pm

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday anonymous tips are sufficient cause for police to stop suspected drunken drivers.

In the case, an anonymous caller to police reported the reckless driving of an 18-wheeler on Interstate 75 in Loudon County. A police officer then found the truck parked on an exit ramp and, after administering field sobriety tests to the driver, arrested him for driving under the influence.

In his argument to the Supreme Court, the driver, Jerry Lee Hanning, contended the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to make his 2003 arrest because he didn’t personally see reckless driving.
 In her opinion, Justice Sharon Lee wrote “the anonymous tip reporting reckless driving indicated a sufficiently high risk of imminent injury or death to members of the public to warrant immediate intervention by law enforcement officials.”

“Had the officer refrained from detaining Mr. Hanning and allowed him to resume driving, either Mr. Hanning or another member of the public may well have been killed or injured.”

The court affirmed the decisions of the Court of Criminal Appeals and Criminal Court of Loudon County to deny Hanning’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained during his arrest.

10 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 10/20/09 at 6:05

This is malefide idiotic. If I call in an anonymous tip on someone driving erratically and the po-po find him at home drunk, are they going to arrest him on the suspicion that he was actually driving drunk at some point in the past because I called anonymously and said he was?

Good way to screw over someone you don't like.

By: terry r payne on 10/20/09 at 7:31

damn, now I will have to drink closer to home. And maybe if I quit lying about being an army ranger, having a masters degree, and that I have money, maybe people wont get so pissed at me once they figure out I have been lying about everything all along, so then they wont call the cops to tell them I am drinking and driving.

By: pandabear on 10/21/09 at 5:51

I don't think either one of you would pass a sobriety test right now.

By: sidneyames on 10/21/09 at 6:42

“Had the officer refrained from detaining Mr. Hanning and allowed him to resume driving, either Mr. Hanning or another member of the public may well have been killed or injured.”

As citizens, we have the right to report what we believe is a crime; then the justice system will take care of it. I spend hours and miles of driving on the freeways from middle to west TN; thousands of miles with my job. When one drunk driver is removed from the road, it makes me safer.

And Wicked, people have to be "intelligent" and wise about reporting these things. It can't be a false report. Look at "balloon daddy" and see that falsely reporting to a law enforcement agency is criminal. So use your power(s) wisely.

By: HATDADDY on 10/21/09 at 9:10

Must you wait till you or someone you love is run over and killed by a drunk driver
or does that matter ?


By: sidneyames on 10/21/09 at 9:53

no, hatdaddy. Citizens have the right and duty to help keep our streets safe. It matters.

By: govskeptic on 10/21/09 at 10:29

This ruling could have very serious consequences for
more erosion of freedom in this state. While it was good
to get this particular driver off the street on this occasion
anyone could be pulled over for any reason and the court
be told an anonymous tip had been called in.

By: Lorenzo on 10/21/09 at 11:44

Tips should not be anonymous. If someone feels strong enough to call the police then the accused has the right to know the identity of their accuser. This will create reasons for unwarranted stoppage by aggressive LEOs who later will say their jrecords are lost or misplaced.

Just last week this same Justice expressed concern in a dissenting opinion against probationers that the majority ruling takes too many rights away from people subject to searches that aren't based on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

By: sidneyames on 10/21/09 at 1:48

Lorenzo, I agree that "tips should not be anonymous". But most people don't have the backbone to stand up to what is wrong. And they are afraid of retialiation by the person who gets the ticket or whatever.

Even going to Environmental (dog) court scares people so they listen to dogs barking and running loose all night.

Sometimes they are afraid to stand up for their own rights.

By: tgent1001 on 10/23/09 at 7:08

I want all of the drunks off of the road. I appreciate the Supreme Court taking a stand instead of bowing down to people who think that the law doesn't apply to them.
This guy got screwed by the money hungry lawyer who kept this case floating the the court system since 2003. One for the good guys.