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Supremes Say Anonymous Tips Don’t Justify ‘Stop and Frisk’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police must corroborate anonymous tips before officers stop and frisk someone.
The unanimous court ruling came in a case involving a man who was convicted of being a felon in possession of a handgun and having a firearm while intoxicated.
The opinion overturned the ruling of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
The opinion said police had no grounds to stop and frisk Guy Alvin Williamson at a hotel because there was no indication, beyond the anonymous report, that a crime had been committed. As a result, the court said evidence against Williamson should have been suppressed.
Williamson was arrested after an anonymous report was made to Covington police in May 2009 of an “armed party” at a local motel.
The opinion protects everyone from illegal searches and seizures, said Parker Dixon, an assistant public defender in Tipton County, who represents Williamson.
Police only had a report of an armed person before drawing a gun on his client and two others — essentially seizing them — when they were at the motel, Dixon said.
The attorney said police would have to have more grounds to believe that a crime had been committed, other than just the report that someone was armed, because many people legally have the right to carry a gun.
“This case really protects someone’s rights to bear arms, otherwise that type of report could requires anyone to be subjected to a frisk,” Dixon said.
It also protects others from unreasonable searches and seizures, he said.
The opinion didn’t say police couldn’t act on anonymous tips, only that they have to have some reason to believe that a crime has been committed before stopping and frisking someone.