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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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