Paroled Felon Arrested Based on Tip After Posting His Ice Bucket Challenge Online

People around the country have been participating in this summers biggest trend; the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge involves posting to Facebook a video of oneself having ice water dumped upon their head. The challenge was created in order to raise money for the ALS Association, an organization that helps fight Lou Gehrigs disease. Unfortunately, for one convicted felon out on discretionary parole in Nebraska, his participation in the trend has landed him back in jail.

As reported by The Smoking Gun, an Omaha man was arrested on a parole violation after a tipster, who saw the video of the man participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook, informed police of the man’s whereabouts. Police, acting on the tip, were able to locate the man and place him back into custody for absconding. Will such a tip support a criminal conviction for absconding in this case? What is the law concerning the use of tips by police?

Federal Law Concerning the Use of a Tipster

A tipster is someone who provides a tip to the police usually anonymously and for a cash reward. Both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution protect every citizen’s from illegal search and seizure by the police. In order for this right to privacy to be legally violated, the police must have some type of probable cause that supports the invasion upon the citizen. In many cases, a tip from a tipster can provide the probable cause necessary for the police to secure a warrant enabling them to search and possibly arrest an individual.

Totality of the Circumstances Rule Used by Courts

During a criminal trial, the prosecution may try to introduce into evidence the tip provided by the tipster as the foundation of the police’s probable cause to search and arrest the criminal defendant. However, the Court must employ the totality of the circumstances” test first defined in Illinois v. Gates when determining whether or not probable causes existed.This test is a relatively open-ended analysis, and most Courts will not prevent the tip from supporting a probable cause finding so long as the information concerning the future movements or the future whereabouts of the suspected criminal do in fact occur. A Court generally would also require that a police officer testify how the tip was received and that the officer observed a crime occurring based upon the tip.

The Ice Bucket Challenge Felon is Likely to be Chilled

The tip leading to the arrest of a Nebraskan felon out on parole is likely to be upheld as providing police with enough probable cause to secure a warrant to arrest the felon for absconding. Under the totality of the circumstances test, the Court will require that a police office testify how he or she received the tip from the tipster and how the tip led the officer to observe the felon committing a crime. In this case, it appears the tip led police to the address at which the felon participated in the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Upon securing the address from the tipster, police staked out the location and observed the felon being driven away from the property. The felon was then arrest for absconding, or intentionally avoiding being detected by police. Thus, the tip in question is likely to support the probable cause necessary for police to arrest the felon.

At Brownstone Law, we work specifically on appellate litigation. Our appellate attorneys are skilled in the areas of federal, criminal and civil appeals. If you would like more information concerning the law on informant tipsters or help with your appeal, please contact us today.


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