DUI and Be on the Lookout (BOLO) Stops

Now that cell phones are so common, the police get a lot of calls from concerned drivers regarding what these citizens believe is an ongoing criminal offense.

However, for the police to act on this information, it must be sufficiently detailed so as to allow the police to do something more than stop everyone in a similar vehicle on the highway. Basically stated, the United States Supreme Court has held that no corroboration (verification of the accuracy) of the anonymous tip equals an illegal seizure.

As an example, the police likely could not legally stop your vehicle based only on a call from an unknown citizen who said that a person was getting into a blue Infiniti in downtown Columbus, Ohio and that the driver “looked” drunk, although such a call can be one of many pieces which could lead to adequate sufficiency. On this flimsy information, any blue Infiniti in Columbus, Ohio could be pulled over, since no model of Infiniti or tag number was given. If you were stopped solely on the basis of this call, it is likely the court would consider such a stop legally lacking in sufficient detail.

If declared to have been illegal, then other evidence developed following the traffic stop would also be excluded by the trial court (such as the State’s DUI-DWI evidence).

If, on the other hand, the police received a call describing some alleged violation of state law regarding an older white male, driving a red 2007 Ford Ranger pick-up truck, eastbound on Broad Street near the Municipal Court Building in Columbus, Ohio, with tag number BRG 319, and with the driver’s side door painted silver, and your vehicle’s description matched all of these criteria and you were stopped, such specific detail would likely be enough to give the police a legitimate reason to stop you.

So, the law allows warrantless traffic stops when sufficient details are given by the concerned citizen to the police dispatcher.