If you had a few too many to drink, and someone tells you that you probably should not be driving as you stumble out to your car, you should probably listen to them. It is in everyone’s best interest to drink and drive responsibly. However, alcohol doesn’t always make us the most reasonable people, so if you did end up driving despite the warning, could an anonymous tip made to the police by anyone that saw you result in an arrest being made?
DWI stop procedure is complex in Minnesota, and that is what makes each DWI case unique and not completely hopeless. Unlike in other states, Minnesota police cannot set up drunk driving checkpoints to catch drivers in a wide sweeping net. Furthermore, they also need valid reasoning to stop your car if they suspect drunk driving is happening right in front of them. This means you need to be swerving, speeding, or actually committing a traffic violation when behind the wheel in order for police to pull you over and discover that you are intoxicated in a legal manner that will hold up in court.
Tips as Evidence
However, while that all seems rather straightforward, the realm of anonymous tips muddies the waters a little bit. A police officer can actually pull you over if they receive a tip that you are drunk driving. These sort of tips are a form of reliable hearsay and as such, the police do not need to witness a traffic violation to pull the vehicle over. However, this can mean good things for your DWI case. The informant needs to credible in order for there to be a conviction. If you can unravel the tipster, the primary cause for the traffic stop, you may be able to have the arrest dropped altogether.
For example, if you were fighting with your ex-lover and they call in a DWI tip. This hurts their credibility as it could have been done out of pure vengeance rather than actual fact. If law enforcement believe a tip to be a malicious one without much factual bearing, often they will just simply ignore it. They will also use what information they have to check out the continuity of the details before following up on a tip. If that ex-lover said they watched your come out of a bar, but the call information says they are safely inside their own home, it is unlikely that the police will follow up on this tip. Even if they do, an arrest will not be immediate, but rather any officers in the area will observe before they arrest.
Alternatively, if a random stranger watched you stumble to your car, drive out the entrance as an exit, and drive off without your headlights on, this makes them pretty credible. The more information the tipster provides to the police, the more credible the tip becomes.
Mentioning details like they saw you exit a drinking establishment with obvious signs of intoxication then actually get behind the wheel and drive will help the impending arrest stand up in court more strongly than if they just suspected you were drunk without any evidence of how you got intoxicated. If a stranger did not see you exit an establishment that serves liquor, a defense attorney could simply argue that you tripped when you stumbled and they had no reason to make a call, damaging their credibility.
However, as they are not affiliated with you in anyway, there is no way that anyone could argue that it was motivated by anything other than concern for other drivers on the road since they had no relationship to you whatsoever.
The Issue of Anonymity
If the tipster were to leave their name and number, they will most likely be called in as witnesses for your DWI case. However, for truly anonymous tips, anonymity being a right for tipsters, it can be an issue for the police. If the tipster gave great detail – make, model, color of your car, license plate, how many shots you slammed back, how you fell down on the way to your car, where you are headed – but left out their name, it can be a problem. You can’t use someone you can’t contact as a witness. This is why police officers will likely follow up on the tip, but will simply observe at first rather than pull the vehicle over right away. Even if the tipster chose to leave their contact information, most officers will likely follow and observe first just because a tip call can be a loose end that can invalidate an arrest.
To be safe, police will likely follow the vehicle and wait for traffic violations. This will give them the necessary cause to pull the vehicle over and make the arrest. So if you are facing a DWI charge from a truly anonymous tip and were not pulled over for a traffic violation by what is likely an over-eager police officer, it could very well work in your favor and your lawyer will likely want to take advantage of that. However, unless your arresting officer was very green, these cases are usually very unlikely as police officers want convictions to result from their arrests.
Contact a Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Today
Have you been charged with a DWI in Minnesota? Even if it is your first DWI charge, you will face costly punishments with long-reaching consequences in many facets of your life. Furthermore, if it is not your first offense, previous DWI convictions will make your current punishment exponentially worse.
Let us help you make sure you aren’t crushed under the burden of Minnesota’s strict criminal punishments. Contact us today to see what the Anderson Law Firm can do to help your case. If you were arrested upon an anonymous tip, we can help unravel it so that the arrest could potentially be thrown out and your DWI case with it.
Being pulled over for a DWI based on an anonymous tip is just one more factor in your DWI case that can help it be dropped if treated properly by a great defense attorney.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.