The Okaloosa County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force (DTF) has concluded a joint investigation with the DEA in connection to a drug trafficking ring operating in Northwest Florida.
In January 2013, Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers reported a tip to the DTF that a head nurse at a Fort Walton Beach area doctor’s office was involved with trafficking prescription narcotic medications. The investigation led to suspect Wendy Cagle, who was found to be calling in multiple unauthorized prescriptions for controlled substances to various pharmacies for individuals that she knew personally and who were not under medical care.
Before an officer may stop and question an individual he or she must have reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual is engaged in criminal activity. Anonymous tips are questioned for their reliability because the assertions of criminal activity typically cannot be verified and, thus, require independent corroboration. The other tip commonly used is the tip from the citizen-informer crime victim or crime stopper department whose official motivation in reporting illegality is the promotion of justice and public safety rather than financial gain, and will be held accountable for the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information given. State v. Deluca, 40 So. 3d 120 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010).
An anonymous tip does not give the right to a law enforcement officer to go on a digging expedition to violate one’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, but certainly may give rise to reasonable suspicion to temporarily detain someone for investigation and/or to stop a vehicle. Corroboration of the tip to a reasonable extent is required but will vary from case to case. If one is currently facing charges brought in conjunction with the use of an anonymous tip, one should immediately contact an experienced attorney.
In the case of drug crimes, for example, police may have received an anonymous tip that a drug deal is about to occur, and that someone is transporting contraband in a vehicle or is in a particular location and about to sell drugs. If an officer suspects a driver is engaged in criminal activity, that officer may pull one over, even though they may lack probable cause for an arrest. However, what they have to go on may be enough to engage in what is known as an “investigative stop”.
Even if the officer lacks probable cause to arrest or search the motorist, the officer can stop and temporarily detain the motorist to investigate further if “there is articulable suspicion that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Terry v Ohio, 392 US 1 (1968). This means that law enforcement can stop and temporarily detain a driver even where no traffic violation has occurred and where the officer does not have probable cause to arrest the driver, provided that the officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity. This applies to anonymous tips as well.
Remember, sometimes the people that remain anonymous may have been family members with grudges, rivals, or other enemies made along the road of life with motives of their own. Regardless the motivating factor, it is because of an anonymous tipsters unwillingness to be held accountable for their statements that courts require officers to corroborate aspects of the tips prior to seizing and searching a suspect. Corroboration can consist of many things. For example, if an anonymous tipster told officers a certain set of specific facts, and those facts came did not happen in the manner described by the tipster, the officer would not be justified in seizing the suspects as the tip was not corroborated.
One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney when fighting Florida’s drug crime laws. Unfortunately, the police mishandle the evidence, making the evidence worthy of being excluded, making a drug charges hard to prove if there is no drugs or incriminating phone call as admissible evidence. If one is under investigation or has been arrested on drug charges, one will need to obtain an experienced Jacksonville drug and gun crimes defense attorney to fight the case.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source: Crime Tip Leads to Drug Arrest of 7 People, WTVY.com