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Lewis v. State A13A1263 Anonymous Tip of driving slow in area of thefts not good enough for stop

Lewis v. State A13A1263 – August 13, 2013. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that an “Anonymous Tip” of a chevy blazer driving slowly in the area of thefts in Twiggs County Georgia is not good enough basis under the 4th Amendment to justify a traffic stop to investigate criminal wrongdoing as it is not sufficient articulable suspicion of a crime. John Lewis was stopped after an anonymous tip of him driving slowly and was arrested for both Alcohol and Drug DUI and drug possession for methamphetamine, marijuana, and ecstasy.

The Appeals Court held that an officer must be able to point to “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, provide a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity. The State argued that the deputy had reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify the stop based on a concerned citizen’s tip, the slow speed at which Lewis’s vehicle was traveling, and the vehicle’s presence late at night in an area known for recent metal thefts. The Court first found that the tipster was not known and anonymous.  But an anonymous tipster may be the basis for a stop if the tip provides sufficient information that it “predicts a suspect’s `not easily predicted’ future behavior, or if it provides other details, which police corroborate as showing similar inside information about the subject’s  affairs.” Quoting, Register v. State, 315 Ga. App. 776, 728 S.E.2d 292 (2012). Here the only information provided was driving slowly which is not inside information but easily observable from the outside.

Further, the stop was not justified by the deputy’s observation of the vehicle driving very slowly late at night in an area known for recent metal theft because even when viewed in the totality of the surrounding circumstances, such conduct does not, in and of itself, constitute reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity.  The Court of Appeals focused particularly on the fact that in this case there was merely evidence of driving slowly through an area recently subject to several thefts, rather than repeatedly passing by a particular property that had been the target of recent crimes. Finally, the Court that the subjective belief of wrongdoing does not rise to the level of an articulable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing required for a traffic stop or investigative detention.

-Authored by George C. Creal, Jr.

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