City of Missoula v. Tye

City of Missoula v. Tye, 2016 MT 153 (June 21, 2016) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in affirming the municipal court’s order denying Tye’s motion so suppress.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: A man called 911 at 1:37 am one night in May 2014 to report a drunk driver. He told the dispatcher where he was driving, what the car looked like, and what the driver was doing. He could not describe the driver because of the car’s tinted windows, and could not see the license plate. He gave his name and phone number, and said he could be contacted. He said he would possibly sign a complaint if necessary.

A Missoula police officer responded to the report, and passed a vehicle in the vicinity of the report that fit the description given. Another officer observed the car turn onto 34th Street, and after searching the area, found it in an apartment complex parking lot. The defendant was standing near the car. Officer Jones approached her on foot and spoke to her. Based on his observation that she was swaying, had watery eyes and slow, slurred speech, and smelled of alcohol, Officer Jones determined she was intoxicated. Tye admitted she had several drinks before driving, and the officer arrested her for DUI.

After arresting Tye, Officer Jones determined that the informant lied about his location. He actually called from his residence after Tye drove away from there intoxicated. He did not want Tye to know he was the informant.

Tye appeared and pled not guilty. She moved to suppress all evidence on the basis that the informant’s report did not give Officer Jones particularized suspicion to make an investigative stop. The municipal court held a hearing, after which the court denied Tye’s motion to suppress.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Tye entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the denial of her motion to suppress. She appealed to the district court, which affirmed, and now appeals to the Supreme Court, which affirms.

Reasoning: A citizen informant’s report must contain some indicia of reliability to provide particularized suspicion for an investigatory stop. The Court reviews the Pratt factors and concludes the district court did not err in finding that the informant’s report met all three factors.