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Articles Posted in 911 Tips and DUI Stops

The content of a 911 call can be pivotal in the prosecution of a drunk driving case. This was evident last week in the second offense DUI case of Commonwealth v. John C. Depiero. The defendant in this case appealed his conviction, arguing that the appellate review erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a stop. On January 4th, the Supreme Court of Middlesex County, MA affirmed the Appeals Court denial, but for reasons different to those previously given. The Supreme Court’s decision raises issues surrounding the reliability of 911 calls and whether the caller’s report sufficed as reasonable suspicion for the officer to stop the defendant’s car.

What happened during the “stop”?

In August 2011, an anonymous 911 caller alerted authorities of erratic driving on a Cambridge road. According to the caller, a Mercedez Benz was showing signs of erratic driving, swerving and crossing the divider line. The caller offered the driver’s license plate number and car description, and also referred to the driver as being “drunk”. After running the car details, it became apparent that the driver in question was on probation for drunk driving, and a state trooper was sent to the defendant’s residential address.

Many OUI stops originate from a report of someone on the road claiming that another driver is driving erratically. In many cases, the officer will follow the motorist and make independent observations justifying the stop. In some cases the stop may be solely the result of the 911 caller. The SJC addressed this issue on October 26th of 2015 in Commonwealth v. John Depiero.  The Court heard oral arguments in this case with a decision expected within three or four months.

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