Anonymous tips enough to stop drivers, court rules

Anonymous tips enough to stop drivers, court rules

October 20th, 2009 by Monica Mercer in Local Regional News

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that anonymous tips that alert authorities to reckless driving are sufficient to warrant detention and questioning of drivers.

"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," wrote state Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee in the court's opinion, released today.

The ruling arose out of the 2003 arrest of Jerry Lee Hanning, who was driving an 18-wheeler northbound on Interstate 75 in Louden County and later was found to be intoxicated when approached by police in a McDonald's parking lot.

Police became aware of Mr. Hanning's reckless driving through an anonymous caller who described Mr. Hanning's vehicle and told police where it had exited the interstate.

Mr. Hanning entered a conditional plea of guilty to DUI, but asserted that authorities had violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Mr. Hanning argued to the state Supreme Court that the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him because the officer had not personally seen him driving recklessly.

The state Supreme Court's opinion upheld the decisions of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Criminal Court of Louden County to deny Mr. Hanning's motion to suppress the evidence seized during his arrest.