Alabama v. White
United States Supreme Court
ALABAMA v. WHITE
No. 89-789 Argued: April 17, 1990. --- Decided: June 11, 1990
Police received an anonymous telephone tip that respondent White would be leaving a particular apartment at a particular time in a particular vehicle, that she would be going to a particular motel, and that she would be in possession of cocaine. They immediately proceeded to the apartment building, saw a vehicle matching the caller's description, observed White as she left the building and entered the vehicle, and followed her along the most direct route to the motel, stopping her vehicle just short of the motel. A consensual search of the vehicle revealed marijuana and, after White was arrested, cocaine was found in her purse. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama reversed her conviction on possession charges, holding that the trial court should have suppressed the marijuana and cocaine because the officers did not have the reasonable suspicion necessary under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, to justify the investigatory stop of the vehicle.
Held: The anonymous tip, as corroborated by independent police work, exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop. Pp. 328-332.
(a) Under Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 1924, 32 L.Ed.2d 612, an informant's tip may carry sufficient "indicia of reliability" to justify a Terry stop even though it may be insufficient to support an arrest or search warrant. Moreover, Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 2328, 76 L.Ed.2d 527, adopted a "totality of the circumstances" approach to determining whether an informant's tip establishes probable cause, whereby the informant's veracity, reliability, and basis of knowledge are highly relevant. These factors are also relevant in the reasonable-suspicion context, although allowance must be made in applying them for the lesser showing required to meet that standard. Pp. 328-329.
(b) Standing alone, the tip here is completely lacking in the necessary indicia of reliability, since it provides virtually nothing from which one might conclude that the caller is honest or his information reliable and gives no indication of the basis for his predictions regarding White's criminal activities. See Gates, supra, 462 U.S., at 227, 103 S.Ct., at 2326. However, although it is a close question, the totality of the circumstances demonstrates that significant aspects of the informant's story were sufficiently corroborated by the police to furnish reasonable suspicion. Although not every detail mentioned by the tipster was verified-e.g., the name of the woman leaving the apartment building or the precise apartment from which she left-the officers did corroborate that a woman left the building and got into the described vehicle. Given the fact that they proceeded to the building immediately after the call and that White emerged not too long thereafter, it also appears that her departure was within the time frame predicted by the caller. Moreover, since her 4-mile route was the most direct way to the motel, but nevertheless involved several turns, the caller's prediction of her destination was significantly corroborated even though she was stopped before she reached the motel. Furthermore, the fact that the caller was able to predict her future behavior demonstrates a special familiarity with her affairs. Thus, there was reason to believe that the caller was honest and well informed, and to impart some degree of reliability to his allegation that White was engaged in criminal activity. See id., at 244, 245, 103 S.Ct., at 2335, 2336. Pp. 329-332.
550 So.2d 1074 (Ala.Cr.App.1989), reversed and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 333. Joseph G.L. Marston, Prattville, Ala., for petitioner.
David B. Byrne, Jr., Montgomery, Ala., for respondent.
Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.