Motor Vehicle Stops Based on 911 Calls

While we await the return of DWI checkpoints to the Jersey Shore, the Law Office of Frederick P. Sisto is happy to provide tips to help you avoid a wrongful DWI conviction.

It is not worth the risk to operate a motor vehicle after consuming drugs or alcohol, even for a very short drive wherein you will not be seen by the police. New Jersey law allows for motor vehicle stops based on anonymous 911 tips of intoxicated or erratic driving. If someone is out to get you and reports your intoxicated or erratic driving via 9-1-1, the police can stop you even if they do not observe any violations.

In the case of State v. Golotta, the New Jersey Supreme Court did away with the requirement that the police corroborate a 911 caller’s erratic driving report before conducting a motor vehicle stop. The Court reasoned that: a call processed via 911 carries enhanced reliability; the temporary stop of a vehicle is less intrusive than a search; and an intoxicated or erratic driver poses a significant risk of death or injury to himself and the public. The Court found that calls to the 911 system could provide an independent basis for a stop because the caller knows that his phone number will be recorded and that he is committing a criminal offense if he makes a false report. All that is required is that the caller convey that he witnessed an ongoing risk of danger. The call must also be close in time to the first-hand observations. The caller must also provide a sufficient description of the vehicle and its location so that the police can be reasonably certain that they are stopping the correct vehicle.

As a practical matter, anyone with an axe to grind who knows that you are driving after consuming even a small amount of alcohol or drugs can easily get you arrested and charged with a DWI. Even if their “tip” turns out to be false, the falsity does not provide a defense if the police acted reasonably in relying on the tip.

As always, the best DWI defense is a designated driver. Your next best defense is to call Fred Sisto.

Stay tuned for additional checkpoint alerts and tips and have a Happy Holiday Season!

Alcohol DUI