In 2015, a tipster who gave their first and last name to 911 advised that they had just left an Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meeting with Vanessa Page and was concerned about Page driving. The tipster gave details on Page’s identity, looks, vehicle, and destination.
Biloxi P.D. Officer Robert McKeithen received the call and spotted Page’s car driving towards her home. He followed her for about 45 seconds but did not observe any traffic violations. However, based on the tip, he pulled her over.
Page smelled like alcohol and her speech was slurred. Her drivers license was suspended from a prior DUI earlier that year. She failed the field test and was arrested for DUI. She then consented to a blood test and had a BAC of .19%.
She was convicted of felony driving under the influence and sentenced to five years. On appeal, she argued the stop was based on an uncorroborated and new tipster with no credibility with police. MCOA affirmed.
An informant’s tip may provide reasonable suspicion if it is accompanied by some indication of reliability; for example, reliability may be shown from the officer’s independent investigation of the informant’s information. Reasonable suspicion is dependant upon both the content of the information possessed by the detaining officer as well as its degree of reliability. Both factors—quantity and quality—are considered in the totality of the circumstances.
The MSC decided in Floyd that a DUI stop based solely on an informant who had provided credible information in the past was sufficient. However, Page argues that unlike the informant in Floyd, the tipster here was essentially anonymous because they had no prior working relationship with the Biloxi Police Department.
However, there is no requirement that a tipster provide credible information in the past to be able to do so in the present. If that were the case, a first time tipster could never establish credibility. Instead, the court takes a totality of the circumstances approach when evaluating a tip and the tip’s subsequent establishment of reasonable suspicion.
Page argues this case was more like Cook, where MSC found that an anonymous tip did not justify a car stop when the driver’s vehicle and location was the only information police were able to corroborate. We disagree.
Here the tipster identified herself by name and reported that she had personally witnessed Page’s behavior during an alcoholic’s anonymous meeting just prior to calling in the tip. The tipster also provided specific facts regarding Page’s car, physical appearance, and destination.
McKeithen stopped Page based on his confirmation of those facts. The content of the tip was extremely specific and easily and visibly verifiable by McKeithen before he stopped Page. The fact that the tipster had been participating in the same AA meeting as Page and personally witnessed Page’s behavior, speaks to the tip’s reliability regardless of whether the tipster had provided credible information to the police in the past.
The “quantity and the quality” of the information provided in the tip, when considered alongside the totality of the circumstances, was enough to establish reasonable suspicion.