Florida v. J.L.

529 U.S. 266, 120 S. Ct. 1375 (2000)

 

RULE:

Unlike a tip from a known informant whose reputation can be assessed and who can be held responsible if her allegations turn out to be fabricated, an anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates the informant's basis of knowledge or veracity. However, there are situations in which an anonymous tip, suitably corroborated, exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop.

FACTS:

The court affirmed a judgment holding that a Terry "stop and frisk" search of respondent based only on an anonymous tip was invalid under U.S. Const. amend. IV. Respondent was searched after an anonymous caller reported to the police that a young black male standing at a particular bus stop and wearing a plaid shirt was carrying a gun. The court held that an anonymous tip that a person was carrying a gun was, without more, insufficient to justify a police officer's stop and frisk of that person. The tip pointing to respondent lacked the moderate indicia of reliability necessary because the call provided no predictive information to enable the police to test the informant's knowledge or credibility. Further, the accurate description of respondent's appearance was not enough since the reasonable suspicion at issue required that the tip be reliable in its assertion of illegality, not just in its tendency to identify a determinate person. Finally, the court declined to modify the Terry standard to license a "firearm exception" since it roved too far from the court's established reliability analysis.

ISSUE:

Was the Terry "stop and frisk" search of respondent based only on an anonymous tip thus being constitutionally invalid?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court affirmed a judgment holding that a Terry "stop and frisk" search of respondent based only on an anonymous tip was constitutionally invalid since an anonymous tip that a person was carrying a gun was, without more, insufficient to justify a police officer's stop and frisk of that person.

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