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While many DUI incidents are initiated after an officer observes a driver commit a violation of the law and subsequently pulls that driver over, there may be cases where a DUI arrest occurs after a concerned citizen or other civilian witness contacts the police in order to report a drunk driving incident. Many people who report such activity want to know what they may be getting themselves into and if it is ultimately worth it.
It is usually the case that officers must form a reasonable suspicion that a driver is violating the law before they can legally pull a vehicle over. Typically, the basis of the stop will be a violation of the law that the officer has personally observed. However, when the police receive a call from a concerned citizen or another party regarding a driver’s dangerous conduct, the officer would be allowed to pull over the vehicle in question without independently observing a traffic violation in many cases. As long as the vehicle and/or driver has been described with sufficient detail (i.e. identifying a license plate number and vehicle make and model), the officer may be justified in stopping the vehicle based on the witness’ description.
When a person places a call to 911 to report a dangerous driver, they will be recorded and the information provided will be sent via dispatch to a nearby law enforcement officer. The driver may ask to remain anonymous; however their number may be recorded.
There may be other circumstances where a person reports an incident to the police that ends up resulting in a DUI arrest. This is often the case with many traffic collisions. After being involved in a traffic collision, one of the parties involved may contact the police. The police may initiate a traffic investigation, however if one or more of the drivers is suspected of driving under the influence, the investigation may turn into a criminal DUI investigation. Because the officer typically was not around when the accident occurred, civilian witnesses may be necessary to establish that the suspected DUI driver was actually observed driving a motor vehicle. This witness may ultimately be called into court to testify regarding the incident and his or her observations of the defendant driver.
A witness may be concerned that his or her name, phone number, address and other identifying information will go into a police report that will then be turned over to the DUI defendant. However, the law prohibits the disclosure of this information to a criminal defendant. Any identifying information would have to be redacted from an incident report before it could be provided to a criminal defendant. However the information would be available to the defendant’s attorney and other official parties, who may request a follow up interview. The prosecution may serve the witness with a subpoena requiring them to appear as a witness for trial. If properly subpoenaed, a failure to appear at trial could result in a warrant being issued for the witness.