Do You Know Who Your Friends Are? Michigan Court Finds That Anonymous Tip From Snitch Is Not Enough To Justify Police Search

Randall Levine

An anonymous tipster calls the Silent Observer hotline and tells them that he was once a friend of yours and you sell drugs.  He is reporting you because he has now taken up the “cause” and sworn off drug use. The snitch describes you as a male Caucasian junior who sells marijuana from your pick-up truck in the school parking lot.

The Assistant Principal and the police search your truck without a search warrant and without your permission. It doesn’t matter that the search uncovers marijuana because this case will be dismissed and the evidence will be suppressed.  This is the result of the recent holding of the Michigan Court of Appeals in People v Perreault, 287 Mich App 168 (2010).

The Court found that school officials may search a student’s person or property on school premises only if they have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is involved.  For Fourth Amendment purposes reasonable suspicion means more than a few conclusory facts.  An anonymous tip from a snitch is too vague and does did not provide enough details to corroborate the conclusory statement that the student was indeed trafficking marijuana from his truck in the school parking lot.

All searches must be analyzed carefully whenever criminal charges are issued based upon the fruits of the search.  Snitches are notoriously unreliable as they usually have charges of their own to “work off”.  Just because evidence has been seized does not mean that it can be used in a criminal prosecution, when the Fourth Amendment is violated.

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