Here is an odd passage in Justice Scalia’s dissent today from the opinion (.pdf) allowing a stop based on a (functionally) anonymous call saying a specific vehicle had run the caller off the road. The issue was whether this (functionally) anonymous call provided reasonable cause for the stop. Here is what Justice Scalia says:
The tipster said the truck had “[run her] off the road way,” id., at 36a, but the police had no reason to credit that charge and many reasons to doubt it, beginning with the peculiar fact that the accusation was anonymous. “[E]liminating accountability … is ordinarily the very purpose of anonymity.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U. S. 334, 385 (1995) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). The unnamed tipster “can lie with impunity,” J. L., supra, at 275 (KENNEDY, J., concurring). Anonymity is especially suspicious with respect to the call that is the subject of the present case. When does a victim complain to the police about an arguably criminal act (running the victim off the road) without giving his identity, so that he can accuse and testify when the culprit is caught?
Hmmmmmm. Verrrry suspicious. Verrry verrrry suspicious.
Oh: and also, untrue. From Justice Thomas’s opinion:
At the suppression hearing, counsel for petitioners did not dispute that the reporting party identified herself by name in the 911 call recording. Because neither the caller nor the Humboldt County dispatcher who received the call was present at the hearing, however, the prosecution did not introduce the recording into evidence. The prosecution proceeded to treat the tip as anonymous, and the lower courts followed suit. See 2012 WL 4842651, *6 (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 12, 2012).
You can “treat” it as anonymous, I suppose, but it wasn’t. Therefore, to argue that the tip is suspicious because the caller oddly refused to give her name seems like a bad argument when . . . the caller did give her name.
How did Scalia miss this? It fairly screams out at the reader.
I realize they are setting rules for other cases, and the holding applies to actually anonymous calls — but that does not justify treating this call as suspicious for the caller’s failure to do something that the caller actually did. Just explain it and explain the rule.
P.S. The rest of Scalia’s opinion is pretty well written.