The police received a tip from an anonymous caller, who reported that a young black male standing at a particular bus stop and wearing a plaid shirt was carrying a gun. Officers went to the bus stop and saw three black males, one of whom, the defendant, was wearing a plaid shirt. The officers had no reason to suspect any of the three of illegal conduct other than the anonymous report. One officer frisked the defendant and seized a gun from his pocket. The officers arrested the defendant for carrying a concealed firearm without a license and possessing a firearm while under the age of 18.
Whether law enforcement officers can base reasonable suspicion solely on an anonymous tip?
No. Reasonable suspicion must be based on something more than an anonymous tip.
An officer, for the protection of himself and others, may conduct a frisk for weapons of persons engaged in unusual conduct where the officer reasonably suspects the person is armed and presently dangerous. Here, the officer’s suspicion that the defendant was carrying a weapon did not develop from his own observations but solely from a call made from an unknown location by an unknown caller. The Court held that this tip lacked sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk. The tip did not provide predictive information that left the government without means to test the informant’s knowledge or credibility. Reasonable suspicion to conduct stops and frisks requires that a tip be reliable in its assertion of illegality, not just in its tendency to identify a person.
529 U.S. 266, 120 S. Ct. 1375 (2000)