Florida v. J.L.

Florida v. J.L. Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
529 U.S. 266 (2000)

ISSUE: Did officers have reasonable suspicion to believe that D would be carrying a gun when they received an anonymous tip that a young, black male in a plaid shirt at a certain bus stop was carrying a gun?
HOLDING: No, an anonymous tip lacking indicia of reliability of the kind contemplated in White and Adams does not justify a stop and frisk whenever and however it alleges the illegal possession of a firearm.
FACTS:
  • Police received an anonymous tip that a young, black male dressed in a plaid shirt was standing at a bus stop carrying a firearm
  • Police observed a group of 3 young black males at the stop, and one was wearing a plaid shirt
  • The police conducted a Terry stop on the plaid-shirted male, found a gun, and then frisked the others but didn't find anything
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Trial Ct. suppressed the gun
  • Ct. App. reversed, but the Fla. Sup. Ct. quashed the decision and held the search invalid under the 4th Amdt.
RULES:
  • Terry v. Ohio: Where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him to believe that criminal activity may be afoot and that the person may be armed and dangerous, he is entitled for his protection and that of others to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing to discover weapons
  • Alabama v. White: There are situations where an anonymous tip + police corroboration = reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop
REASONING:
  • Different than White: The tip here lacks the moderate indicia of reliability present in White and essential to the decision in that case
    • No predictive information
  • Finding gun immaterial: The reasonableness of official suspicion must be measured by what the officers knewbefore they conducted their search
  • Need more than description: The reasonable suspicion at issue here requires that a tip be reliable in its assertion of illegality, not just in its tendency to identify a determinate person
    • No per se exception for firearm tips
COMMENTS:
  • An anonymous tip alone will not give the police reasonable suspicion to perform a Terry stop.
  • See Alabama v. White for when an anonymous tip will result in reasonable suspicion (i.e., when there is official corroboration).

 

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