In 2005, the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department received an anonymous tip from a female stating that she had just left Gregory Vincent Baker’s home, and that several people were there “cooking drugs.” Deputies Neal Mitchell and Chris Doss responded to the call. Mitchell knew the location of Baker’s house as he had been there numerous times for domestic and drug-related calls.
When the deputies arrived at Baker’s address, they stopped at the primary residence, which was occupied by Baker’s parents and grandparents. Baker’s mother escorted the deputies toward his house trailer, which was located approximately thirty to forty feet behind the primary residence. Before reaching Baker’s residence, Baker’s mother stopped and told the deputies that she did not want her son to get in any more trouble.
As they were standing in front of the trailer, a small child ran to the trailer and knocked on the door. The deputies heard a loud commotion in the trailer and then heard the back door slam. The deputies ran to the side of the trailer and saw four people running behind the trailer. All four were detained. While waiting on backup to arrive, the deputies noticed smoke coming from the trailer and notified the fire department. After the fire department determined that the trailer was not on fire, a search warrant was obtained for the premises.
A search of the trailer was conducted, and the deputies found the necessary ingredients for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Later that evening, deputies found Baker wearing muddy clothes and hiding in a closet at his mother’s house. He was arrested.
Baker was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of precursor chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and sentenced to 10 years. On appeal, he argued the anonymous tip was not sufficient and was stale. MCOA affirmed.
We find Baker’s assertion that the deputies should not have responded to the anonymous tip to be without merit. We find that the tip, even though from an anonymous informant, contained sufficient evidence to warrant a further investigation. The caller gave the deputies fresh information – that she had just left Baker’s residence and saw people “cooking drugs” – and the deputies were familiar with Baker’s address because they had responded to drug-related incidents at his residence in the past.
Baker points us to U.S. Supreme Court case Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000), which states that an anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates the informant’s basis of knowledge or veracity.
However, in Adams v Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1972), the United States Supreme Court stated that some tips, completely lacking in indicia of reliability, would either warrant no police response or require further investigation before a forcible stop of a suspect would be authorized.
Furthermore, in Linson, this court stated that an officer may stop and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest.
The trial judge found, and we agree, that this was an instance that required further investigation. Deputy Mitchell testified at the suppression hearing that they responded to the call because “it is our job to respond. And if we didn’t respond, then we could be held liable because the information was given to us and we did not act on it.” Deputy Mitchell further testified that the main reason that they responded to the anonymous call was to investigate the complaint further.
We cannot find that the trial judge abused his discretion in finding that the deputies had a duty to further investigate the anonymous tip. Once on the property, the deputies only proceeded to Baker’s trailer with his mother’s permission.
The search warrant was not obtained based on the anonymous tip; rather, it was based on the suspicious activity that occurred on the property while the deputies were being escorted to the trailer by Baker’s mother. Consequently, we find that the search was legal, and the evidence was properly admitted by the trial court.