Police Detention Based on An Anonymous Tip

Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the stop of a motor vehicle must be supported by reasonable and an articulable suspicion. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 59 L. Ed. 2d 660, 99 S. Ct. 1391 (1979). A police officer may detain an individual for investigative purposes for a limited scope and duration but only if the detention is supported by a reasonable and an articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968). An intrusion is justifiable where the police officer can point to specific and articulable facts, taken together with rational inferences from those facts reasonably supporting the intrusion. Terry, 392 U.S. 1 at 21. Reasonable suspicion is a less demanding standard than probable cause and may be established with information that is different in quantity or content and may arise from information that is less reliable than that required to show probable cause. Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330, 110 L. Ed. 2d 301, 110 S. Ct. 2412 (1990). Information received from an anonymous tip can provide a reasonable and an articulable suspicion necessary to support a motor vehicle stop. Alabama v. White, supra. Where an anonymous tip is relied upon to establish reliable suspicion, it must contain both the quality and quantity of information under the totality of circumstances. Alabama v. White, supra. If a tip has a low degree of reliability, more information will be required to establish the required quantum of suspicion. Jones v. State, Del.Supr., 745 A.2d 856 (1999). Independent corroboration by the police of significant aspects of the informers predictions give a degree of reliability to the allegations made by an anonymous caller. White, 496 U.S. at 332. The anonymous tip must do more than provide an accurate description of a subject's readily observable location and appearance. Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 146 L. Ed. 2d 254, 120 S. Ct. 1375 (2000). The tip should contain a wide range of details as to the actions of third parties ordinarily not easily predicted. White, 496 U.S. at 332. In Alabama v. White, the United States Supreme Court held that the trial court must look to the totality of circumstances when deciding whether an anonymous telephone tip of criminal activity provides reasonable suspicion for the police to effect a stop. It also stated that a trial court may consider several factors in deciding whether a reasonable suspicion exists. The specificity of the anonymous tip independent police corroboration of the facts underlying the tip; the ability of the tipster to predict future behavior by the suspect.