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March 30, 2012

If police stop and search a defendant acting solely on an uncorroborated, anonymous tip, the stop and search are not justified and the arrest should be quashed.  Such tips are not reliable enough to warrant the police seizure. A lawful Terry Stop may be based on information received from an informant, but the information must bear some indicia of reliability and must be sufficient to establish the requisite quantum of suspicion. People v. Culberston, 305 Ill.App.3d 1015, 1023, 713 N.E.2d 794 (1999). Anonymous tips generally lack reliability. People v. Yarber, 279 Ill.App.3e 5189, 526, 663 N.E.2d 1131 (1996). This is because anonymous tips do not demonstrate the tipster’s basis of knowledge or veracity. People v. Sparks, 315 Ill.App.3d 786, 792-3, 734 N.E.2d 216 (2000). The informant’s veracity, reliability and basis of knowledge are determinative.  People v. Halmon, 225 Ill. App. 3d 259, 274, 587 N.E.2d 1182 (1992).

Where the reliability of the information obtained from an anonymous source cannot be easily corroborated and no other suspicious circumstances are known to police, a stop may be found unwarranted. People v. Ertl, 292 Ill.App.3d 863, 869, 686 N.E.2d 738 (1997). The need for corroboration of an anonymous informant’s tip is obvious where that person can never be cross-examined as to the reliability of his information or his motivation for providing it. People v.Patterson, 282 Ill.App.3d at 219, 227, 667 N.E.2d 1182 (1996). An anonymous tip standing alone, without corroboration, is insufficient. Sparks 315 Ill.App.3d at 792. Where the State’s evidence lacks sufficient evidence of corroboration and no other suspicious circumstance existed, a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence should be granted.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed this issue in Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S. Ct. 1375 (2000), where it ruled that an anonymous tip, without more, was not sufficient to justify an officer’s stop and frisk of petitioner. In J.L., the Court reasoned that the tip came from “an unknown, unaccountable informant who neither explained how he knew about the gun nor supplied any basis for believing he had inside information about the petitioner.”  J.L., 529 U.S. at 271. The Court reasoned that aside from the tip, police had no independent reason to suspect the petitioner of any wrongdoing, as he was just standing at the bus stop doing nothing in particular to indicate criminal activity.  J.L., 529 U.S. at 270-71. Other than an anonymous tip, if police had no independent reason to suspect petitioner of wrongdoing, the stop and search are unlawful.  In addition, the State usually cannot make a sufficient showing of the informant’s basis of knowledge or the reliability of his information.

If these issues apply to your situation, contact John McNamara for help.