Post details: CA10: Eyewitness’s anonymous 911 call about a fight he was watching in a parking lot was entitled to credibility

04/18/13

Permalink 03:04:23 pm, by fourth, 674 words, 782 views   English (US)
Categories: General

CA10: Eyewitness’s anonymous 911 call about a fight he was watching in a parking lot was entitled to credibility

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):

[More:]

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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