911 Call Justifies Traffic Stop Finding Pot, Justices Rule In 5 To 4 Split


The Supreme Court today upheld, 5 to 4, a California Highway Patrol officer’s search of a pickup truck that was stopped by police after a 911 caller reported that the vehicle had run her off the road. “That made it reasonable under the circumstances for the officer to execute a traffic stop,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. After the truck was stopped, officers smelled marijuana and found 30 pounds of pot in a search, which the driver and a passenger challenged.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia predicted that law enforcement agencies would conclude that the case establishes a new rule: “So long as the caller identifies where the car is, anonymous claims of a single instance of possibly careless or reckless driving, called into 911, will support a traffic stop. This is not my concept … of a people secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The case is Prado Navarette et al. v. California.

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