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OWI conviction overturned on grounds of unlawful tip

Wisconsin has strict laws in place to keep drivers safe on the road and to discourage any person who has been drinking alcohol to get behind the wheel of a car. Even with help from the public, it may be impossible for law enforcement officials to find every drunk driver on the road and perform the appropriate tests to have them charged with OWI. Citizens are allowed to call in a tip to police to inform them when they believe a person is driving drunk, but there may be a fine line between the constitutional rights of the driver and the information from the tip.

After observing several wealthy businessmen eat dinner, have drinks, and get into an SUV and drive away, a concerned citizen called police to inform them the man was driving drunk. Although the man's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, the Iowa Supreme Court recently overturned his conviction, citing his constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure.

The Court specified in the released opinion that the man giving the tip to police is required to have actually viewed inconsistent driving before calling police to prevent people from calling in harassing and untruthful tips on another person. Any evidence obtained after the police pulled the man over was also thrown out by the court.

The issue in this situation may be bigger than a simple case of drunk driving. Although the judges made known that they do not condone driving drunk, they were concerned about protecting the man’s constitution rights, and felt the police stop violated them. Any person facing an OWI or drunk driving charge may benefit from discussing the specifics of the case with an attorney and protecting all constitutional rights.

Source: THONLINE, “Supreme Court tosses OWI over anonymous tip,” June 29, 2013

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