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Can Police Stop and Identify? - SCOTUS Hiibel Ruling

Can Police Stop and Identify? - SCOTUS Hiibel Ruling

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Published by PRMurphy
Numerous states have "stop-and-identify" statutes in their criminal code. While these
statutes vary somewhat in their approach, all permit an officer to ask for or require a suspect to disclose his or her identity when conducting a Terry stop (see "Terry v. Ohio," p. 70). That's all fine and good, but what happens when the suspect refuses to provide their identity either verbally or by providing a driver's license or other form of identification? Can an officer place an individual under arrest for simply refusing to
comply with the officer's request?
Numerous states have "stop-and-identify" statutes in their criminal code. While these
statutes vary somewhat in their approach, all permit an officer to ask for or require a suspect to disclose his or her identity when conducting a Terry stop (see "Terry v. Ohio," p. 70). That's all fine and good, but what happens when the suspect refuses to provide their identity either verbally or by providing a driver's license or other form of identification? Can an officer place an individual under arrest for simply refusing to
comply with the officer's request?

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Published by: PRMurphy on Feb 08, 2011
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Stop & Identify: Can an officer arrest asuspect for failing to provide ID?
http://www.policeone.com/columnists/lom/articles/120321-Stop-Identify-Can-an-officer-arrest-a-suspect-for-failing-to-provide-ID /By Laura ScarryNumerous states have "stop-and-identify" statutes in their criminal code. While thesestatutes vary somewhat in their approach, all permit an officer to ask for or require asuspect to disclose his or her identity when conducting a Terry stop (see "Terry v.Ohio," p. 70). That's all fine and good, but what happens when the suspect refuses toprovide their identityeither verbally or by providing a driver's license or other form of identification? Can an officer place an individual under arrest for simply refusing tocomply with the officer's request?In an opinion decided last year in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada,Humbolt County, that particular question was addressed head on. In Hiibel, the UnitedStates Supreme Court held that a police officer's arrest of a suspect, after the suspectrefused to identify himself during a Terry stop in violationof Nevada law, did not violatethe Fourth Amendment.
Hiibel: The Facts
The facts of the Hiibel case are anything but dramatic. On May 21, 2000, the HumboltCounty (Nev.) Sheriff's Department received a telephone report of an assault occurringon the sideof a highway. A deputy sheriff was assigned the call. Upon arrival, theofficer observed a young woman sitting inside a truck parked on the side of the roadand a man standing alongside it. The officer approached the man, now known as LarryHiibel, and explained he was investigating a report of a fight.The officer then asked Hiibel, who appeared to be intoxicated, if he had "anyidentification on [him]." Hiibel refused to comply with the officer's request and askedwhy it was necessary for the officer tosee his identification while insisting he had donenothing wrong. The officer responded that he was conducting an investigation and itwas necessary to see some identification to find out who Hiibel was and what he wasdoing there.Over the course of several minutes, the officer asked Hiibel for his identification 11times and was refused each time. After warning Hiibel he would be arrested if hecontinued to refuse to provide his identification, the officer placed him under arrest andcharged him with obstructing a police officer.
 
The Decision
 At the criminal trial, the state reasoned Hiibel had obstructed the officer's efforts tocarry out his duties in conducting an investigative stop pursuant to a Nevada statutethat allows a police officer to detaina person under Terry, and any person so detained"shall identify himself, but may not be compelled to answer any other inquiry of thepeace officer." Hiibel was subsequently convicted and fined $250.Hiibel appealed the conviction, and the case eventuallyreached the U.S. SupremeCourt, where in a 5-4 decision, it held that the Nevada stop-and-identify statute did notviolate Hiibel's rights under the Fourth Amendment (or the Fifth Amendment either).The court observed that asking questions is an essential part of police investigations. Itfurther stated that asking a question relating to one's identity or a request foridentification by the police does not, by itself, violate the Fourth Amendment:"Questions concerning a suspect's identity are a routine and accepted part of manyTerry stops."The court stated that obtaining a suspect's name during a Terry stop serves importantgovernment interests, such as possibly identifying whether the suspect is wanted foranother offense or has a record of violence or mental illness. On the flip side,knowledge of one's identity may help clear the suspect and, therefore, direct the policeinvestigation elsewhere.While the court found that police officers are entitled to ask a suspect about hisidentity, it admitted that it had never before decided whether a suspect's failure toanswer those questions could give rise to an arrest and criminal prosecution.Nonetheless, the Court found the principles of Terry permit a state to require a suspectprovide ID during the stop. First, the Court concluded, after balancing the intrusion of the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the promotion of legitimategovernment interests, the statute's contribution to efficient law enforcementoutweighed any interference with Hiibel's right to privacy.Second, the Court found that the request for Hiibel's identity was immediately related tothe purpose, rationale and practical demands of a Terry stop. Under Terry, an officer'sactions must be limited in scope and duration. For example, the detention cannotcontinue for an excessive amount of time and can only allow for minimally intrusiveinvestigative techniques. In sum, the Court found that the Nevada statute met thestandards enunciated under Terry and its progeny, and is consistent with the Fourth Amendment's prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.Finally, addressing Hiibel's concerns that the statute allows police officers to arrestpersons just because they look suspicious, the Court noted that under Terry,the stopmust be justified at its inception and limited in scope and duration. In other words, anofficer may not arrest an individual for merely failing to identify himself if the requestfor identification is not reasonably related to the circumstancesjustifying the stop. Thatis, if a police officer stops a person for no apparent reason and then asks the person forhis name, the officer cannot cite the stop-and-identify statute as his basis for asubsequent arrest because there was no lawful basis forthe stop in the first place.
 
However, in the Hiibel case, the Court found the request for identification was related inscope to the circumstances that justified the stop. The officer's request was acommonsense inquiry in responding to a call reporting domestic violence, and notsimply an effort to arrest a suspect for failing to provide identification after the officercould find no sufficient evidence of a crime.
Conclusion
In sum, Hiibel holds a state may criminalize a refusal to produce identificationas longas the detention is predicated on a valid Terry stop (i.e., reasonable suspicion). In otherwords, police officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment when they arrest anindividual after the individual refuses to provide identification during a lawful detentionpursuant to their state's stop-and-identify statute. Certainly, it should come as nosurprise that the remaining state legislatures might enact similar stop-and-identifystatutes. No doubt such enactments provide law enforcement with another importanttool to ensure officer safety during brief and seemingly innocuous encounters.
Do not construe this column as legal advice. Each police officer should consult with anattorney in their jurisdiction for legal advice on any specific issue.
Reference
Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, 124 S.Ct. 2541, 2546 (2004), identifies at least 20states with such statutes.Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).125 S.Ct. 2451 (2004).125 S.Ct. at 2455.NRS § 171.123.124 S.Ct. at 2458.
Laura L. Scarry is a partner in the law firm of Myers, Miller & Krauskopf in Chicago, Ill.She represents law enforcement officials against claims of civil rights violations in stateand federal courts. Scarry was a police officer with the Lake Forest (Ill.) PoliceDepartment from 1986-1992.
Sidebar: Terry v. Ohio
In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), a police officer with 39 years experience hadpatrolled the vicinity of a downtown metropolitan area for shoplifters and pickpocketsfor 30 years. The officerwatched a man (Terry) walk past the window of a jewelrystore several times and then walk over to several men. It appeared to the officer thatthe men were planning to rob the store, so he stopped them and asked questions.During the encounter, the officerfrisked Terry and found a weapon.The U.S. Supreme Court held that the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop andquestion the suspects based on the officer's patrol experience in the downtown area.The rule that evolved from this opinion states that officers may pat down an individual

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The court observed that asking questions is an essential part of police investigations. It further stated that asking a question relating to one's identity or a request for identification by the police does not, by itself, violate the Fourth Amendment: "Questions concerning a suspect's identity are a routine and accepted part of many Terry stops."
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