CRIMINAL:  Search and seizure (investigatory stop; informant’s tip)
DATE RENDERED: 12/22/2006

Virginia Kupper appealed her criminal conviction which included multiple counts for criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, possession of stolen mail matter, fraudulent use of a credit card, and receipt of a stolen credit card.

The COA concluded the trial court did not err in denying Kupper’s motion to suppress evidence, and affirmed the conviction.

The propriety of a traffic stop must be considered based upon the totality of the circumstances as they existed at the time including various objective observations, information from police reports, if such are available, and consideration of the modes or patterns of operation of certain kinds of criminals.  The relevant inquiry is not whether particular conduct is ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty,’ but the degree of suspicion that attaches to particular types of noncriminal acts.

The case before us does not involve a stop based upon an anonymous tip but rather a stop based upon information from an identified complainant. Such tips are entitled to a greater ‘presumption of reliability’ as opposed to the tips of unknown ‘anonymous’ informants.   A greater presumption of reliability is justified because identifiable informants can be subject to criminal liability themselves “if it is discovered that the tip is unfounded or fabricated.

What distinguishes a ‘citizen informant’ tip from other types of tips is the fact that such tipsters are almost always bystanders or eyewitness-victims of the alleged criminal activity.

Based upon the totality of the circumstances,  this Court  concluded that the information Cardwell provided Officer Thompson was sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion to support an investigatory stop of Kupper’s vehicle.

digested by Mike Stevens

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