Woman wins drunken driving case at Michigan Supreme Court

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, file photo, The Michigan Supreme Court's Hall of Justice is seen in Lansing, Mich. SANTA FE, N.M. _ Court majorities are at stake beyond Washington, D.C., as voters chose justices for state supreme courts that have been thrust into politicized clashes over voter access and the emergency powers of governors fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, wants to flip control of the states Republican-majority high court. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BAD AXE, Mich. – An anonymous call alleging that a driver could be drunk wasn’t enough for police to make a traffic stop in Huron County, the Michigan Supreme Court said Thursday.

The court noted that a county officer followed the woman's car but didn't see any violations before stopping the vehicle. She was charged with drunken driving while with a child and having an open container of alcohol.

The stop violated constitutional protections against search and seizure, the court said in a 5-0 opinion.

In 2016, someone called the sheriff's office to report that a woman yelled at children while outside her vehicle and appeared to be drunk.

“There is no support for the conclusion that ‘appearing to be obnoxious’ and yelling at one’s children creates a reasonable and articulable suspicion that one is intoxicated," Justice Richard Bernstein said. "All we have here is little more than a conclusory allegation of drunk driving, which is insufficient to pass constitutional muster."

Writing separately, Justice Brian Zahra said he agreed with the result mainly because of a sparse, “seemingly incomplete” record of the case in Huron County court.

“I encourage citizens to continue to report their suspicions of drunk or impaired driving, urge police officers to remain vigilant in protecting our state’s highways, and implore prosecutors to use all available evidence to ensure that an accurate and complete record is developed,” Zahra said.