This can be a tricky area of the law because the answer is likely going to vary in each individual case. Ultimately police may be justified in stopping a vehicle based on a tip from someone else. Generally the information police receive from the tip must be specific as to what exactly the vehicle is doing, the description, and any other information that “exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability.” State v. McArn, 159 N.C. App. 209 (2003). Otherwise the police must be able to corroborate the information given in the tip before they can stop the vehicle.
In State v. Maready, 326 N.C. 614 (2008), an informant told police that a vehicle was being driven erratically and was in a position to observe the traffic violations she was complaining of. The informant approached officers in person and gave them information at a time and place near the traffic violations and appeared to be distressed. Police had also previously observed an intoxicated man stumbling across the roadway to enter the defendant’s vehicle. The court found under these circumstances the informant’s tip would support finding the police had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle based on these facts and found the informant had little to fabricate her allegations. In State v. Peel, 196 N.C. App. 668 (2009) an anonymous tip was given to police about an erratic driver. Police observed the vehicle weave one time and proceeded to stop the vehicle. The court in this case found that this was insufficient reasonable suspicion to justify stopping the vehicle because the tip was not corroborated.
What these cases tell us is that police may stop someone if they get an anonymous tip about erratic driving if the tip that comes in is detailed, such that it exhibits sufficient reliability, which means the tip would have to include a lot of information and the informant needs to observe the violations. Otherwise police may act an anonymous tip if police can corroborate the information they receive, which means they will need to observe and confirm information that was given to them.
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