A common pre-cursor to a
DUI arrest is that another motorist called in our client’s vehicle alleging
that they thought it was a possible drunk driver. We are frequently asked
whether or not this is a legal reason for the police to arrest someone.
The questions is really not so much can the police arrest you for DUI based
on the call, but rather does the call give the police a legal reason to
pull you over.
Police are not allowed to just pull a motorist over because they feel like
it. In order for the police to pull a car over the rule was that the police
had to have a reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. Normally this
occurs when the police actually observe a car doing something indicative
of a traffic offense, such as speeding or drifting out of their lane.
In 2014 the United States Supreme Court held in the case
Navarette v. California, U.S. Sup. Ct. 2014, that an anonymous report could serve as a legitimate
basis for the reasonable suspicion necessary to initiate a traffic stop.
While this ruling allows the police to pull someone over after a *HP or
911 report is made alleging suspicion of drunk driving, it absolutely
does not mean that this is the only evidence police are required to have
to charge someone with DUI.
In order to charge or convict someone of DUI is going to require evidence
that they were materially and appreciably impaired. Most of the time when
the police do follow up on a telephone report they are going to try to
observe the same driving behavior reported before initiating a traffic
stop. This is because the rules of evidence prevent the prosecutor from
introducing the report of an anonymous caller, so the police want to observe
something that they can testify to.
So the answer to the question is that you should not be arrested for DUI
based on another motorist’s call. You can however be observed or
pulled over by the police based on that call, and if the police then find
evidence of impairment you can then be charged.