Should a Witness’ Tip Be Enough to Make a DUI Stop?

Posted On: September 9th, 2020 by Bradley J. Groene
Police officer taking a statement from woman

Police officers often get tips from people, claiming a person is breaking the law or acting suspiciously. But is a tip from a witness enough to stop a vehicle for OVI? That’s an issue currently being decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court voted 4-3 in May to accept the appeal concerning a Cincinnati woman who was stopped by a state trooper and later arrested for driving while intoxicated, according to

If you’re charged with an OVI in Cincinnati, No matter your situation, call Luftman, Heck & Associates for help. We’ll review the stop, determine your best course of action, and fight to secure the best possible outcome.

Call (513) 388-1890 or contact us online 24/7 for a free, initial consultation.

An Officer Needs a Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion to Make a Stop

The issue is what kind of warning or notice can the public give the police for it to justify a car being pulled over. If it’s not legally enough, that stop, and the use of the evidence gathered, would violate the driver’s rights. If the evidence can be excluded at a trial, there may be little or no evidence to support the charge.

On the other hand, a traffic stop is valid if the officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to commit, a crime. That was the finding of a 1968 US Supreme Court decision involving a Cleveland detective who stopped three men after claiming they were acting suspiciously. As a result, he patted them down and found firearms.

What if Someone tells Someone Else – Who Tells the Police?

In the case in question, a state trooper was at a gas station, looking into an accident, when a customer, who was told by an employee, warned the trooper that the someone was driving drunk.

Both lower courts ruled the witness’ statement wasn’t enough for trooper to base a “reasonable suspicion” needed to stop the driver. The customer, who accused the driver in the first place left the scene without being identified or answering any questions.

The customer directed the trooper’s attention to the driver, who was slowly backing up from a parking space. The trooper motioned for Tidwell to stop, but she continued until he stood in front of her vehicle.

The trooper claims that after the driver rolled down her window, he could see her eyes were bloodshot, her speech was slurred, and the vehicle smelled of alcohol. She was given a field sobriety test, and her blood alcohol concentration was found to be .213, more than two and a half times the legal limit.

What Circumstances Justifies a Police Stop?

Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals ruled the customer’s words to the trooper weren’t enough to justify the stop. The customer’s warning was an anonymous tip that couldn’t be tested.

Essentially, there were no details and no other evidence the driver was breaking the law. The appeals court stated the reasons for more than just a bare statement are to prevent people from playing jokes on others or using police officers to seek revenge on another.
To correctly make an OVI stop based on an informant’s tip, the information must create a reasonable, articulable suspicion the driver was or is about to engage in criminal activity, according to, State v. Cook.

Generally, an anonymous tip without any other supporting evidence is rarely enough to justify a stop because it doesn’t show the basis of the informant’s knowledge or truthfulness. But, there may be circumstances when the source can show enough signs of reliability to justify an investigative stop.

If You’ve Been Charged, Get a Cincinnati DUI Lawyer ASAP

As you can see, a life-changing criminal conviction can hinge on who said what to whom. If you’ve been arrested for OVI, don’t go it alone. There may be ways to limit the evidence against you and secure a favorable result.

Call Cincinnati DUI Brad Groene at LHA at (513) 388-1890 today to discuss your case. Initial consults are free, confidential, and we’re available 24/7.