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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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

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  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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