Case Brief #4
Navarette v. California
Facts & History On August 23rd, 2008, the California Highway Patrol received a dispatch with the following information: “Showing southbound Highway 1 at mile marker 88, Silver Ford 150 pickup. Plate of 8-David-94925. Ran the reporting party off the roadway and was last seen approximately five minutes ago.” Highway patrol officers received this dispatch at 3:47, at 4:00 an officer in the area spotted the truck, and after following the truck for 5 minutes, pulled the truck over at about 4:05p.m.. As the two officers approached the truck they smelled marijuana and a search of the truck bed resulted in them finding 30lbs of marijuana. The officers arrested the driver, petitioner Lorenzo Navarette, and the passenger, petitioner Jose Prado Navarette. The petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated their 4th amendment because the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Both the magistrate in the suppression hearing and the Superior Court disagreed. The petitioners pleaded guilty. On appeal, the California Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts decision.
Issue, Decision & Reasons for the Decision Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito joined. The Court affirmed the lower courts decision. They first talk about the 4th Amendment, and how the “reasonable suspicion” necessary to justify such a stop relies on two things: 1. The content of information possessed by police and 2. Its degree of reliability. They end this discussion of the 4th Amendment with stating “the level of suspicion the standard requires is ‘considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence.’” There are two important cases of precedent the Court refers to over and over. White is a similar case where an anonymous tip was considered sufficient to meet the “reasonable suspicion” standard, and J.L. is a case where the anonymous tip did not meet that same standard. From White: “Under appropriate circumstances, an anonymous tip can demonstrate sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop.” White is a case where an anonymous informant tipped the police off about an individual who would be transporting cocaine. The informant used great detail in describing where that driver would go, what they would be driving, and many other very specific details. “We held that the officers corroboration of certain details made the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” In contrast, J.L. was a case of a “bare-bone tip” and in that case the Court ruled much more was needed before the reasonable suspicion standard was met. The issue in this case is weather the 911 call was sufficiently reliable. The majority wrote “we conclude that the call bore adequate indicia of reliability for the officer to credit the caller’s account. The officer was therefore justified in proceeding from the premise that the truck had, in fact, caused the caller’s car to be dangerously diverted from the highway. By reporting that she had been rin off the road by a specific vehicle the caller necessarily claimed eyewitness knowledge of the alleged dangerous driving. That basis of knowledge lends significant support to the tip’s reliability.” They then went on to explain all the reasons why there was good support to believe the tipster was telling the truth. With the caller’s accountability still at issue, the majority then turned to discuss the fact that “a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracing callers, and thus provide some safeguards against making false reports with immunity.” If caller leaves a tip that is false, the victim can intern try and identify the callers voice from the recorded call, and eventually bring legal action against him. So