Whether a witness to criminal conduct is a Citizen Informant or an Anonymous Tipster can many times mean the difference between a dismissal or jail.
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Tampa, Florida (Vocus/PRWEB) February 15, 2011
Many times Will Hanlon has been able to use this subtle difference in the law on “informants” to bring about dismissals in cases where his clients’ were illegally stopped by law enforcement. While the difference between the anonymous informant and the citizen informant appear to be slight, the implications for the client are dramatic. If the Court defines the informant as an anonymous informant there is a requirement that the law enforcement officer independently observe facts that lead him to reasonably suspect that the arrestee is engaging in criminal conduct. On the other hand, if the Court defines the source as a confidential informant these independent observations by the law enforcement officer are not required, and the officer can legally stop the suspect immediately.
Whether a witness to criminal conduct is a Citizen Informant or an Anonymous Tipster can many times mean the difference between a dismissal or jail. In a recent case a number of local neighbors observed the client driving recklessly in their residential neighborhood. After the client almost struck two people neighbors called police and the client was stopped in Tampa, Florida. The analysis of the case centered on whether the neighbors would qualify as citizen informants or anonymous informants. The following interpretation of the law led us to a resolution with the prosecutor that minimized our client’s exposure.
Police officers receive radio dispatches every time they go on duty. When the radio dispatch asks the officer to “Be On the Lookout” (BOLO) for a particular suspect many factors play a role in the legality of the eventual stop and arrest. Who reported the criminal conduct? Did they give their name and personal information? Were they present at the scene when the responding officer arrived? Did the officer speak to the source of the radio dispatch before he conducted his detention of the suspect? Did the officer independently observe any illegal conduct when he or she arrived on scene? Nothing is more important to the Tampa criminal attorney than the answers to these questions. The answers will many times have a dramatic impact on their representation. This makes other issues secondary when the stop of your client is based on a citizen’s tip.
Every tip must be judged based on “the totality of the circumstances”. The reliability of the tip will be determined by the quality and quantity of information supplied to law enforcement. The only time an anonymous tip can create the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a stop is where an independent police investigation corroborates sufficiently detailed anonymous information. The anonymous tip must not only supply sufficient detailed information about the suspect, but must also describe in detail conduct that is “presently occurring or is about to occur in the future”, and police confirm those details.
Known citizen-informants are treated much differently than anonymous informants. Unlike the anonymous informant, the citizen-informant is on the high-end of the reliability scale. Citizen-informants possess a presumption of reliability that make it unnecessary for law enforcement to corroborate their information. In State v. Maynard, the Florida Supreme Court set out the factors that every trial judge should consider when determining if the tipster qualifies as a citizen-informant. First, the informant should provide law enforcement with their personal information. Second, the police should be able to readily ascertain the informant’s identity. Even if the informant does not make law enforcement aware of their identity if they are available at the scene, they will qualify as a citizen-informant. In addition, the informant cannot be motivated by “pecuniary gain, but by the desire to further justice.” Lastly, the citizen-informant is someone who is not motivated by criminal enterprise. They are someone who “by happenstance finds himself in the position of a victim or a witness to criminal conduct and thereafter relates to police what he knows as a matter of civic duty.”
In short, it will be difficult for any Tampa criminal attorney to suppress evidence emanating from a stop based on information supplied by a citizen-informant if the information received by the dispatcher amounted to a criminal conduct.
Will Hanlon of Hanlon Law has been practicing criminal law for over 15 years. He successfully defends criminal defendants on a wide array of criminal charges. A Tampa criminal attorney who has grown up in the area his entire life. Will Hanlon has a result-oriented approach towards the practice of law that has brought about the successful representation of thousands of clients. For more information go to http://www.tampadefenseattorney.com.