Eyewitness’s anonymous 911 call about a fight he was watching in a parking lot was entitled to credibility because it was based on first hand knowledge of what was being observed as the call was made, not inside knowledge as from a snitch. United States v. Madrid, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 7755 (10th Cir. April 17, 2013):
Significantly, all of the other factors that we consider to determine whether a tip provides reasonable suspicion support the caller's reliability. First, it is clear the caller was reporting contemporaneous, firsthand knowledge of the possible fight in the parking lot. As we stated in Brown, "[w]e consider it another important indicium of reliability that the caller claimed firsthand knowledge of the alleged conduct." Brown, 496 F.3d at 1076. Here, as in Brown, because "the officers knew that the caller's information was based on firsthand knowledge and that it was contemporaneous[,] [t]hey were reasonable ... in taking the caller's information more seriously than information obtained, for instance, through the report of a third party or reported sometime later than the described events." Id. at 1077.
Second, the caller provided detailed information about the events he was observing, including describing the clothing and automobiles of the individuals involved in the incident. This is another indicium of reliability that we have recognized in our reasonable suspicion analysis of anonymous tips. See, e.g., Copening, 506 F.3d at 1247 (unnamed caller's "detailed description" of the alleged criminal activity "bolstered the tip's reliability.").
Third, the caller's stated motivation for calling 911 and reporting the possible fight was a concern for his fiancée's physical safety. This stated motive further buttresses the reliability of the information related by the caller because it reduces the possibility that he harbored animosity towards defendant or his companions and tends to show that he was not using "the device of a phoney tip to wreak injury (indignity, invasion of privacy, suspicion, and sheer annoyance) on [his] enemies, rivals or acquaintances without fear of being held responsible." United States v. Hauk, 412 F.3d 1179, 1188 (10th Cir. 2005); see also Copening, 506 F.3d at 1247 (stating "an ordinary citizen acting in good faith" in calling 911 indicates reliability); Brown, 496 F.3d at 1077 ("[W]e consider it important that the caller's primary motive in contacting 911 ... was not to implicate the armed man but to obtain aid and protection for his friend.").
Finally, police officers dispatched in response to this call were able to verify much of the information the caller had provided. Although the caller's description of the possible criminal activity of the suspects was not verified by the officers, as they arrived at the scene they did find the two cars matched the descriptions given by the caller, and also that the suspects were in their vehicles and attempting to leave, just as the caller had described. As we recognized in Copening, "[t]he officer's corroboration of the latter information, lent credibility to the former. This is particularly true where ... the caller's asserted basis of knowledge—as to both types of information—was first-hand and real-time observation." Copening, 506 F.3d at 1247; see also Chavez, 660 F.3d at 1222 (tip's reliability was bolstered by fact that police officers verified some of information caller provided about suspect's non-illegal conduct before making Terry stop).
There was no need here for the caller to exhibit "inside knowledge" of the alleged crime because he was not an informant providing a tip about a concealed weapon or contraband based on insider information. He was instead a concerned citizen witnessing a situation in public view that he thought was about to become a crime and a threat to public safety, who then reported the disturbance to the authorities. See United States v. Perkins, 363 F.3d 317, 325 (4th Cir. 2004) (distinguishing between tips regarding alleged possession of concealed firearms that "may require corroboration of the extent of the tipster's inside information, in order to ensure that the tipster was in a position to know about the alleged illegal conduct" and tips "where the suspicious activity is openly and readily observable, [where] other manners of corroborating a tip are entirely legitimate"); ...
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"If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It isn't, and they don't."
"Love work; hate mastery over others; and avoid intimacy with the government."
—Shemaya, in the Thalmud
"A system of law that not only makes certain conduct criminal, but also lays
down rules for the conduct of the authorities, often becomes complex in its
application to individual cases, and will from time to time produce imperfect
results, especially if one's attention is confined to the particular case at
bar. Some criminals do go free because of the necessity of keeping
government and its servants in their place. That is one of the costs of having
and enforcing a Bill of Rights. This country is built on the assumption that
the cost is worth paying, and that in the long run we are all both freer and
safer if the Constitution is strictly enforced."
—Williams v. Nix, 700 F. 2d 1164, 1173 (8th Cir. 1983) (Richard Sheppard Arnold, J.), rev'd Nix v. Williams, 467 US. 431 (1984).
"The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing
can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws,
or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence."
—Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961).
Any costs the exclusionary rule are costs imposed directly by the Fourth Amendment.
—Yale Kamisar, 86 Mich.L.Rev. 1, 36 n. 151 (1987).
"There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that
bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the
police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater
than it is today."
— Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 39 (1968) (Douglas, J., dissenting).
"The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their
—Entick v. Carrington, 19 How.St.Tr. 1029, 1066, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (C.P. 1765)
"It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have
frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people. And
so, while we are concerned here with a shabby defrauder, we must deal with his
case in the context of what are really the great themes expressed by the Fourth
—United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 69 (1950) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting)
"The course of true law pertaining to searches and seizures, as enunciated
here, has not–to put it mildly–run smooth."
—Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 618 (1961) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).
"A search is a search, even if it happens to disclose nothing but the
bottom of a turntable."
—Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 325 (1987)
"For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly
exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth
Amendment protection. ... But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in
an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected."
—Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967)
“Experience should teach us to be most on guard to
protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born
to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded
rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men
of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
—United States v. Olmstead, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1925) (Brandeis, J., dissenting)
“Liberty—the freedom from unwarranted
intrusion by government—is as easily lost through insistent nibbles by
government officials who seek to do their jobs too well as by those whose purpose
it is to oppress; the piranha can be as deadly as the shark.”
—United States v. $124,570, 873 F.2d 1240, 1246 (9th Cir. 1989)
"You can't always get what you want /
But if you try sometimes / You just might find / You get what you need."
—Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
"In Germany, they first came for the communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for
the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came
for me–and by that time there was nobody left to speak up."
—Martin Niemöller (1945) [he served seven years in a concentration camp]
“You know, most men would get discouraged by
now. Fortunately for you, I am not most men!”
—Pepé Le Pew
"There is never enough time, unless you are serving it."
"The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime."
—Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948)