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Twitter Tips Lead to Arrest

Thumbnail image for AdobeStock_116715709 (1).jpegA man is in custody after social media respondents identified him as the man who robbed a Fort Worth convenience store.

According to police-obtained surveillance footage, the man went into the store and walked through the aisles, hiding food and other goods in his clothes as he walked. Camera footage also showed the man confront the clerk and punch the clerk in the face before fleeing the store. After police published some still images on Twitter and asked for help, multiple tipsters identified the man as 28-year-old Fabian Garcia, whom they said was a known troublemaker in the neighborhood.

Garcia now faces unspecified charged in Tarrant County.

Informer Tips and Probable Cause

Once upon a time, the Supreme Court used an objective test to determine if informer tips constituted probable cause. But the Justices later abandoned the so-called Aguilar/Spinelli test in favor of a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis that gives judges more discretion in this area.

These factors relate to both the reliability of the tip, and the reliability of the person who provided the information.

In terms of source, anonymous tips and paid tips are the easiest ones for Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys to undermine. If tipsters are not willing to vouch for the information themselves and leave their names, arguably, a judge should give the tip no greater weight. Additionally, paid tipsters obviously have a financial incentive. That incentive is even greater if the tipster both provided the lead and picked the defendant out of a lineup.

However, if the paid tipster has a solid track record, the unreliability concerns may not be as great.

Police tips are at the opposite end of the scale. This category does not include dispatcher-relayed information. Here, we are talking about one officer who sends information directly to another officer.

As for the tip itself, the information must be at least reasonably specific. For example, a tip about an intoxicated motorist in a blue sedan is almost useless. If the tipster relays information about an intoxicated motorist in a blue Toyota near the intersection of Northside and Main, that's much more reliable information.

Probable cause is a rather vague term as well. It is a standard somewhere between reasonable suspicion, which is basically an evidence-based hunch, and beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard of proof at a criminal trial.

Anonymous tips do not always hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.

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