Police cannot stop and search people based solely on anonymous tips, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Thursday, but the justices said that does not mean officers cannot respond to those kinds of reports. The justices commented in a 5-2 opinion that reversed the conviction and 15-year sentence of George Baptiste for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, reports the Associated Press.
Miami-Dade County police arrested Baptiste after getting an anonymous phone call that a man had waved a gun in front of a grocery store in the morning darkness of Dec. 30, 2004. Officers found Baptiste at the scene and frisked him at gunpoint although they had not seen him with a weapon or doing anything suspicious. The search turned up the gun Baptiste claimed he found behind the store. It was allowed into evidence by the trial judge, who rejected Baptiste’s argument it was obtained through an illegal search. The Supreme Court majority, though, cited Florida and U.S. Supreme Court rulings in deciding the gun should have been suppressed because Baptiste was searched solely on the basis of unverified anonymous information and officers had no reasonable suspicion for detaining him.