Someone calls the police with info on a drug bust. What happens?

Basically, what’s liable to happen if some random pothead from California gets in contact with either the local police department or the DEA and “informs” them that someone has been producing and distributing drugs on my property? Obviously, we have nothing going on, but I want to know if I should be worried about the police busting down my door.

On a side note, anyone know anything about pressing harassment charges from across the country?

Personal anecdote; YMMV. About ten years ago one of my coworkers was using our company’s import-export capabilities to smuggle rather large amounts of controlled substances into the United States from the Netherlands. I called the DEA. They basically told me it would be too much work to pursue. Made me proud to be a taxpayer.

I’m innocent of course, there’s nothing going on, but I still don’t want the police checking out my house with no warning.

They would need good intel and more importanly a warrant for them to come busting down your door. Since you’re doing nothing illegal. I doubt that’s going to happen.

Yes – but how much evidence is required before a judge will issue a warrant?

Is the say-so of a random pothead not sufficient?

I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that if they think they have enough reason to check out your house, they’re not going to warn you. I hope you haven’t invested a lot of money in locks, and tend not to wake up with a weapon at hand…

Budget, inertia can be pretty strong in police forces.

I’ll give you a Canadian anecdote, and its not exactly your hypothetical situation, but hopefully it covers the idea.

I used to work in a bar about 10 years ago, and driving home, would occasionally encounter drunk drivers.

Dutifully I would phone 911 on my cell phone. After specifying “require police”, “drunk driver” and “I’m following them”, the dispatcher would ask my name, home address and home phone number. They want to know who you are.

And then they would phone my house at 4am to confirm that I live there, waking everyone up, possibly scaring them, but more importantly, nobody at home would have any idea what is going on, nor would they appreciate such a call.

If they were then satisfied as to my identity, and resources permitted, a car would be dispatched. Presumably they also ran my name as part of their character reference.

More often than not, especially on a Saturday before dawn, the process never resulted in any police showing up. They would have found domestic fights and their own drunk drivers.

So that seemed to be standard protocol for responding to someone causing imminent danger through reckless driving. The RCMP are noted for being pretty professional too. They would have come if they could.

Random J. Pothead is going to experience much the same process. Think he will enjoy that scrutiny? If he has so much as a whisper against his name, or no fixed address, or wont provide one, the police are going to toss his claims; especially since they probably have more pressing matters to attend.

Well that’s a relief. He has no home address lol. He lives out of an RV.

With the understanding that I’m no expert. But it seems reasonable, right?

An anonymous complaint might be used as part of probable cause but it is certainly not enough on its own.

I work in a 9-1-1 center outside the US, so take this for what it is. Laws are somewhat different than the USA. We get quite a few tips called in.

In general the more specific the information provided the more likely a Justice of the Peace will sign a warrant.

Example 1:
Random Pothead calls saying Budget Player Cadet sells/manufactures/uses drug at his home and has nothing else to say.

The info gets passed along to the police and probably not much more happens.

Example 2:
Random pothead calls saying Budget Player Cadet sells/manufactures/uses drug at his home. He has about 1 kilo of cocaine hidden above the second ceiling tile from the far left corner of his bedroom. He is planning to pick up a shipment of marijuana at 11:30pm tonight in the parking lot behind the movie theater. He will be driving his black Honda Civic, license plate ABC123.

The info gets passed to police. Database checks are run to verify the vehicle information. Officers in unmarked vehicles track the car to see if he leaves his house heading towards the movie theater around the stated time. If all of this is verified they put a search warrant in front of the Justice of the Peace and hope he signs so they can secure his home before he has a chance to come back. Officers make observations of his activities behind the movie theater and do a stop and search of his vehicle after he leaves that area.

We’ve had warrants signed to search for illegal weapons based on information from anonymous tips. I ask callers for as many verifiable details as possible.


An anonymous tip, standing alone, is not sufficient to establish probable cause.

Verifiable details are necessary, but: verifiable details that are unrelated to criminal activity do not lend support to the anonymous tip. The tip’s details must be reliable in their tendency to identify a criminal activity, not just identify a particular person.

Of course, there is no minimum standard of proof necessary to begin an investigation. But a search warrant does need probable cause.

I’d be happy to learn my tax money wasn’t being wasted on investigating such things too.

One of my books (LaFave on Search and Seizure) mentions Illinois v. Gates concerning an application for a search warrant based on an anonymous tip, Syllabus;

It is also possible to have a current trial Judge overrule the Judge who issued the SW if he believes the PC is not sufficient under the 4th AM.

As more on the subject, post Gates, from memory, the SC in Florida v. JL ruled an anonymous tip “standing alone” that a person is armed is not enough to justify a pat down when approached. As we know a patdown IS a search. Of course this is not a home invasion, but it is about anonymous tips, so I mention it.

As others have noted it depends upon information detail, police case load, political initiatives to “do something” about problem X, and ultimately whether or not the officer determines it’s worth their time to pursue.

Another issue per the political angle is if there is grant money or similar federal or state incentives allocated to pursue a particular type of crime.

In my somewhat rural county which has limited law enforcement dollars and significant gang problem in the poorer sections, we have police riding around in airplanes looking for pot plants in fields because there are federal dollars allocated for that initiative.
In some counties you have people being arrested for having pictures of their naked bath taking grand kids in their drugstore developed photos.

If nothing much is going on in a small town, or the neighbor makes enough noise the police might go after a few pot plants in your backyard, other wise it’s just going to be noise.

One exception is that anything involving weapons will usually be taken seriously and set off the red lights.