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Justices rule on citizen tip in drunk driving case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has held that a police officer had reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop after receiving from dispatch a concerned citizen’s report of a suspected drunk driver.

In State of Indiana v. Amanda Renzulli, No. 32S04-1102-CR-117, a four-justice majority ruled that the concerned citizen tip was sufficient to support the investigatory stop that led to three failed sobriety tests and the arrest of Amanda Renzulli in Plainfield in April 2009.

A man called 911 to report that Renzulli’s car was driving erratically and possibly could hurt another motorist, and the caller told the dispatcher that the vehicle pulled into a BP gas station. He gave the dispatcher his phone number and address. Police responded and found Renzulli on the scene with visible signs of drunkenness, and she failed three field sobriety tests before being arrested. A blood draw later showed she had a blood alcohol content of 0.22 percent and she was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a class D felony because of a prior conviction from 2005. She filed a motion to suppress the evidence and the Hendricks Superior judge granted it.

Relying on its decision in Kellem v. State, 842 N.E. 2d 352 (Ind. 2006), the Supreme Court decided that it needed to look at the totality of the circumstances of each case when deciding whether a police tip provided the needed reasonably articulable suspicion of criminal activity needed for an investigatory stop. Determining that a concerned citizen tip is equivalent to an anonymous tip in the context of caselaw, the Indiana justices used a Court of Appeals decision from 2000 to hold that a citizen tip is sufficient when that person provides specific information to police allowing them to verify that person’s reliability. The cited case was Bogetti v. State, 723 N.E.2d 876, 879 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), and the justices used that analysis when looking at how the tipster in this case provided the vehicle description and location, as well as his own information.

Justice Steven David wrote the opinion, with Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan concurring in reversing the trial court. Justice Brent Dickson concurred in result, and Justice Robert Rucker dissented in a separate position.

On the final page of the opinion, David included a footnote that says, “It may be advisable in the future for 911 operators to take further identifying information from concerned citizen tips. Information such as date of birth, home address, along with the name and telephone number of a concerned citizen would give greater reliability to these types of tips. This information would potentially place the concerned citizen under penalties of false informing and would help alleviate the concern of a possible imposter or prankster.”

Rucker found that Kellem is distinguishable, because there was little to no police corroboration in this case and the citizen reporting Renzulli’s driving identified her as a “he.” Because this was such a close call, Rucker says he would have agreed with the trial court that the responding officer didn’t establish an independent and objective basis to create reasonable suspicion needed for the stop.

 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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