An investigative stop of appellant’s vehicle was reasonable based on an anonymous tipster’s face-to-face report to police.
“Galvante contends that the officers unconstitutionally seized him without reasonable suspicion when they stopped his car based on an uncorroborated report by an anonymous informant. An investigative vehicle stop constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment … and ‘must be justified by a reasonable suspicion, based upon specific and articulable facts, that criminal activity is “‘afoot,”’ …
“Although the citizen informant here made a face-to-face report to the officers, Galvante argues that this informant was more anonymous than a 911 caller because he provided no identifying or contact information, whereas the 911 system ‘has some features that allow for identifying and tracing callers, and thus provide some safeguards against making false reports with immunity.’ …
“Galvante claims that the unknown informant was unreliable because he did not subject himself to possible arrest if the information he provided proved false. …
“Galvante argues that because the officers had no information corroborating the informant’s unreliable tip before they stopped Galvante, the stop was not justified by reasonable suspicion that Galvante was engaged in the criminal activity of driving while intoxicated.:
“Assuming, without deciding, that Galvante was seized by the officers, we disagree with Galvante’s contention that the informant’s tip lacked indicia of reliability as an anonymous tip.
“Although the informant was unknown to the officers, the informant presented himself to the officers in a face-to-face encounter with no assurance that the police would not use his license plate number to find him if the information he provided proved false.
“Although the informant did not provide his identifying information to the officers, he made it possible for the officers to recognize him by personally appearing before them.
“Moreover, because the informant communicated the tip in person, the officers were able to observe his manner and demeanor to assess his credibility. …
“[T]he informant here cogently presented his report, based his report on his personal observation, exhibited a sense of urgency, and specifically identified the suspect and his car. Here, the officers perceived that the informant was acting with a genuine sense of urgency when he alerted them that an intoxicated man on the nearby street corner was about to enter his car and drive away.
“According to the informant, he personally interacted with Galvante and offered to get him a ride to prevent him from driving. Therefore, the officers could have reasonably inferred that the informant’s claim that Galvante was intoxicated was based on the informant’s personal observation of Galvante.
“The proximity of the bar that Galvante was reportedly coming from also bolstered the credibility of the informant’s tip. The fact that the informant was making a contemporaneous tip as Galvante was entering his car is another indicia of the tip’s reliability.”
“The officers had reasonable suspicion to stop Galvante’s vehicle to investigate Galvante for suspected driving while intoxicated. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying Galvante’s motion to suppress.”
Galvante v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0866-21-2, Sept. 27, 2022. CAV (Chaney) From the Circuit Court of Fauquier County (Lilley). Thomas H. Sheppard II for appellant. Craig W. Stallard, Mark R. Herring for appellee. VLW 022-7-417, 7 pp.y