The most reliable tip is one provided by an individual who gives the police his or her name and address or identifies him or herself in such a way that he or she can be held accountable for the information. Kansas courts have consistently held that these types of tips may support a traffic stop. Tips provided by identified informants are found to be highly reliable because the informant is exposed to possible criminal and civil prosecution if the report is false. In State of Kansas v. Wonderly, the Court of Appeals held that reasonable suspicion based on a tip existed even though the officer failed to observe any traffic infractions. The Wonderly court held that “[t]hree minutes of good driving within the city limits did not dissipate [the officer's] reasonable suspicion based on the information conveyed to him that Wonderly had driven his truck in a reckless manner.”
While law enforcement still prefers to get independent observation of the driving behavior (in a DUI stop, for example), our courts may validate a vehicle stop if the source of the tip appears credible. However, many tips are offered without the tipster's name or phone number, making the tip suspect when there is no independent observation or verification of the driving pattern of an alleged drunk driver. An experienced officer will trail the vehicle until he or she observes a traffic violation. This technique also allows the dash cam video in the officer's cruiser to capture critical evidence for both sides in the prosecution of the case. In some cases, the video will demonstrate good driving behavior and can refute the allegations of bad driving by the tipster. It certainly provides both parties with an objective account of the incident.