Argued January 21, 2014
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT No. 12-9490.
[134 S.Ct. 1685] Syllabus [*]
A California Highway Patrol officer stopped the pickup truck occupied by petitioners because it matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As he and a second officer approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. They searched the truck's bed, found 30 pounds of marijuana, and arrested petitioners. Petitioners moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. Their motion was denied, and they pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop.
The traffic stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the truck's driver was intoxicated. Pp. 1687-1692, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 686-691.
(a) The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops when an officer has "a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of . . . criminal activity." United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-418, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621. Reasonable suspicion takes into account "the totality of the circumstances, " id., at 417, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621, and depends "upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability, " Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301. An anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates sufficient reliability, White, 496 U.S., at 329, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301, but may do so under appropriate circumstances, id., at 327, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301. 188 L.Ed.2d, at 686-687. Pp. 1687 -1689.
[134 S.Ct. 1686] (b) The 911 call in this case bore adequate indicia of reliability for the officer to credit the caller's account. By reporting that she had been run off the road by a specific vehicle, the caller necessarily claimed an eyewitness basis of knowledge. The apparently short time between the reported incident and the 91.1 call suggests that the caller had little time to fabricate the report. And a reasonable officer could conclude that a false tipster would think twice before using the 911 system, which has several technological and regulatory features that safeguard against making false reports with immunity. Pp. 1688-1691, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 687-689.
(c) Not only was the tip here reliable, but it also created reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. Running another car off the road suggests the sort of impairment that characterizes drunk driving. While that conduct might be explained by another cause such as driver distraction, reasonable suspicion "need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct." United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 277, 122 S.Ct. 744, 151 L.Ed.2d 740. Finally, the officer's failure to observe additional suspicious conduct during the short period that he followed the truck did not dispel the reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, and the officer was not required to surveil the truck for a longer period. Pp. 1690 – 1692, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 689-691.
THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, and Alito, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
Jeffrey M.K. Laurence, San Francisco, CA, for Respondent.
Paul R. Kleven, appointed by this Court, Berkeley, CA, for Petitioners.
Rachel P. Kovner, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the Respondent, Paul Kleven, Counsel of Record, Law Offices of Paul Kleven, Berkeley, CA, for Petitioners.
Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Donald E. De Nicola, Deputy State Solicitor General, Seth K. Schalit, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Counsel of Record, San Francisco, CA, for Respondent.
After a 911 caller reported that a vehicle had run her off the road, a police officer located the vehicle she identified during the call and executed a traffic stop. We hold that the stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.
On August 23, 2008, a Mendocino County 911 dispatch team for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) received a call from another CHP dispatcher in neighboring Humboldt County. The Humboldt County dispatcher relayed a tip from a 911 caller, which the Mendocino County team recorded as follows: "'Showing southbound Highway 1 at mile marker 88, Silver Ford 150 pickup. Plate of 8-David-94925. [134 S.Ct. 1687] Ran the reporting party off the roadway and was last seen approximately five [minutes] ago.'" App. 36a. The Mendocino County team then broadcast that information to CHP officers at 3:47 p.m.
A CHP officer heading northbound toward the reported vehicle responded to the broadcast. At 4:00 p.m., the officer passed the truck near mile marker 69. At about 4:05 p.m., after making a U-turn, he pulled the truck over. A second officer, who had separately responded to the broadcast, also arrived on the scene. As the two officers approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. A search of the truck bed revealed 30 pounds of marijuana. The ...