McDonalds Turning in Drive-Through Customers - DUI News - 5/4/2016

Third District holds that anonymous tips given to a McDonald's worker who then calls the police should not be analyzed as anonymous tips.

State v. Hancock, 2016 Ohio 2671 (3d Dist).

April 25, 2016

A McDonald's employee called the police to report a drunk driver in the drive-through lane.  She reported that other customers had made complaints and that the driver almost hit the building.  A patrolman arrived while the Hancock was still at the drive through.  He did not observe Hancock operating his vehicle, but rather approached the passenger window and directed Hancock to a parking spot for further investigation.

Hancock filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have a reasonable and articulable suspicion for the initial stop and investigation and therefore the warrantless detention was unjustified, resulting in all evidence being illegally obtained.

The Third District first reviewed that, "A warrantless vehicle stop is constitutionally valid 'if an officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.'"  When an officer relies upon a dispatch, the test is whether the dispatcher "possessed reasonable suspicion to make the stop".  Because this dispatcher relied upon tips, the Third District then had to evaluate the "the weight and reliability due that tip." It observed that, "an anonymous informant is considered 'comparatively unreliable' and requires independent police corroboration, an identified citizen informant 'may be highly reliable and therefore, a strong showing as to the other indicia of reliability may be unnecessary.'"

Here, Hancock argued that the tip from the McDonald's worker was based on anonymous tips from customers, and therefore unreliable.  Additionally, the officer noted that they had received some unreliable tips from the McDonald's employees.  The Third District rejected his arguments, however.  It concluded that he had almost hit the building, that the McDonald's worker provided their information and therefore the tip was not anonymous, and under the "totality of the circumstances," the officer had sufficient cause.