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Informants and DUI Arrests

Under the U.S. Constitution and most state criminal procedure codes, criminal suspects retain specific rights with respect to police informants. Under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed is always required before law enforcement is privileged to arrest a private citizen. Orange County DUI attorneys know that probable cause is formed a variety of ways—typically through police investigative tools and eyewitness accounts. Sometimes, police are able to apprehend a criminal based on a tip from a known or anonymous informant. The law imputes varying levels of probable cause and reliability with respect to informants, and police are not necessarily permitted to pursue a criminal based on an unreliable, anonymous, or an unknown informant.

Criminal procedure law is friendlier to law enforcement in situations where an informant is identified by name and has been relied upon successfully in the past. Conversely, courts have held that probable cause is not present in cases where police arrest a suspect based on an anonymous tip from an unknown, unreliable source. In these cases, police should have used the tip to investigate further and garner more evidence to form probable cause before arresting the suspect.

Police informants are often involved in DUI cases as other drivers or witnesses have been known to call the local precinct to report erratic or reckless driving. However, not every DUI case involving a police informant enjoys the protections afforded to known and reliable police informants. In one Utah case, the police were responding to a domestic dispute between an intoxicated female and her non-intoxicated male partner. While on the phone with police, the female asserted that the male had been drinking and had just left the premises in his vehicle. The dispatcher sent a bulletin to all patrol cars to be on the lookout for an intoxicated driver in the vicinity. The male was subsequently pulled over and arrested based solely on the tip from the female. The Court of Appeals held that the information relayed by the female was insufficient to form the probable cause necessary to arrest a citizen for a crime.

If you are facing a DUI or other criminal charge and are questioning the reliability of the informant’s information used against you, contact Orange County DUI lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 today for a free consultation.