Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Showing ID: Does the fourth (or fifth) amendment prohibit the police from demanding ID? That's what this case should decide. It goes before the Supreme Court in March as Hiibel v.Sixth Judicial District:
Hiibel was arrested May 21, 2000, outside Winnemucca by Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff Lee Dove. Dispatchers told Dove to check out a report that a man was striking a girl inside a truck.

When Dove arrived, he found Hiibel standing outside the truck. Hiibel's daughter was in inside, and Dove said Hiibel appeared to be drunk.

Dove asked Hiibel 11 times to provide identification. Hiibel refused, and, instead, placed his hands behind his back and challenged Dove to take him to jail.

The article goes on to note that, lacking evidence, all charges were dropped save one -- resisting arrest. It seems to me that the one thing he didn't do was resist arrest. In fact, he willingly went along with the arrest, rather than submit to a demand for identification.

Another article quotes the upholding Nevada high court:

The court's majority said officers, as well as law-abiding citizens, would be placed in danger if police could not require people behaving suspiciously to identify themselves.

"The suspect may be a felon or wanted for an outstanding arrest warrant. Perhaps that person is a sex offender," then-Chief Justice Cliff Young wrote. "More importantly, we are at war against enemies who operate with concealed identities, and the dangers that we face as a nation are unparalleled."

This, of course, ignores resonable suspicion and probable cause. That is, we demand that police adhere to a slightly higher standard. Either there is a reasonable suspicion or there is not. If there is, the police may move to a higher level. Likewise, probable cause opens up other, approved avenues to the cops. Lacking either, encounters between the police and citizens are voluntary discussions, subject to termination by either party. It gives the police too much license to be able to demand identification, simply because there is a statistically non-zero possibility that any given person is a wanted criminal. (Why not stop every 10th car at a tollbooth and run the names of everyone in the car? After all, one of them might be a felon.)

Beyond that, the Nevada court's fallback to the old "these times we live in" saw is more chilling than anything I've seen from the Patriot Act. Certainly the Patriot Act does not require that a citizen present ID to the authorities. This is one that the Supremes should go nine-zip on. By the way, note that even the Washinton Post skips this one on its "Cases to Watch" oral argument calendar. I think this might be a bit more important than the pledge of allegiance case.

(Props to Hit & Run for raising the issue, though their links are unhelpful.)

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