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Keeping name private can be crime, court rules
Divided vote seen as defeat for privacy advocates


Monday, June 21, 2004 Posted: 11:05 AM EDT (1505 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that people do not have a constitutional right to refuse to tell police their names.

The 5-4 decision frees the government to arrest and punish people who won't cooperate by revealing their identity.

The decision was a defeat for privacy rights advocates who argued that the government could use this power to force people who have done nothing wrong to submit to fingerprinting or divulge more personal information.

Police, meanwhile, had argued that identification requests are a routine part of detective work, including efforts to get information about terrorists.

The justices upheld a Nevada cattle rancher's misdemeanor conviction. He was arrested after he told a deputy that he didn't have to reveal his name or show an ID during an encounter on a rural road in 2000.

Larry "Dudley" Hiibel was prosecuted, based on his silence and fined $250. The Nevada Supreme Court sided with police on a 4-3 vote.

Justices agreed in a unique ruling that addresses just what's in a name.

The ruling was a follow up to a 1968 decision that said police may briefly detain someone on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, without the stronger standard of probable cause, to get more information. Justices said that during such brief detentions, known as Terry stops after the 1968 ruling, people must answer questions about their identities.

Justices had been asked to rule that forcing someone to give police their name violated a person's Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that that it violated neither.

"Obtaining a suspect's name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests," Kennedy wrote.

The ruling left the door open for what Kennedy said would be an unusual case in which revealing a name would be incriminating. But he said generally, disclosing an identity is "so insignificant in the scheme of things."

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said America is different 36 years after the Terry decision. "In a modern era, when the police get your identification, they are getting an extraordinary look at your private life."

He said the ruling for Nevada "opens the door to what could become a routine fishing expedition among government databases," after police stop innocent people.

The police encounter with Hiibel happened after someone called police to report arguing between Hiibel and his daughter in a truck. An officer asked him 11 times for his identification or his name.

Over and over again Hiibel refused, at one point saying, "If you've got something, take me to jail" and "I don't want to talk. I've done nothing. I've broken no laws."

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said that Hiibel "acted well within his rights when he opted to stand mute." Also disagreeing with the decision were Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Justices were told that 20 states have similar laws to the Nevada statute upheld by the high court: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The case is Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the state of Nevada, 03-5554.
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Another CCN article:

Source


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court has again given police greater power to stop and question suspects, ruling Monday that a Nevada cowboy could not refuse to give his name to officers who tried to question him along a roadside.

The case was the fifth victory for law enforcement this term in cases involving search and seizure by law enforcement.

The narrow 5-4 ruling was seen as a defeat for privacy advocates.

Larry "Dudley" Hiibel, the Nevada rancher at the center of the case, had become a minor celebrity for those who believed he was standing up for his constitutional rights.

He was arrested after he told a deputy that he didn't have to reveal his name or show an ID during an encounter on a rural road in 2000. Hiibel was prosecuted, based on his silence and fined $250. The Nevada Supreme Court sided with police on a 4-3 vote.

In its ruling announced Monday, the justices upheld Hiibel's misdemeanor conviction. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "Asking questions is an essential part of police investigation. In the ordinary sense a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment."

Kennedy noted that having identification has benefits to both police and suspect. "Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted of another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder," he wrote. "On the other hand, knowing identity may help clear a suspect and allow the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere."

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said that because Hiibel was the target of a police investigation, he "acted well within his rights when he opted to stand mute."

Stevens said, "There is no reason why the subject of police interrogation based on mere suspicion, rather than probable cause, should have any lesser protection."

Monday's ruling was a follow up to a 1968 decision that said police may briefly detain someone on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, without the stronger standard of probable cause, to get more information, according to a report from The Associated Press. Justices said that during such brief detentions, known as Terry stops after the 1968 ruling, people must answer questions about their identities.

Justices had been asked to rule that forcing someone to give police their name violated a person's Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The court in previous weeks ruled for police in four other search and seizure cases that tested the limits of police intrusions and privacy rights.

In the other cases the court:

Allowed police to kick down a suspect's door after only 15 seconds if they believed the suspect was dangerous, or that evidence could be destroyed.

Upheld "informational roadblocks" where officers seek the public's help to solve crimes. A man was arrested at such a stop for driving erratically.

Permitted drugs found in a suspect's car to be used as evidence after federal agents dismantled his car at a border checkpoint.

Ruled lawful a suspect's arrest next to his vehicle after drugs were found inside the car. The court said it was not always necessary for the suspect to be inside his car to have evidence used against him.

Some legal analysts say these cases could have broad implications for law enforcement and the public.

"We have this idealistic notion in this country that we can live in kind of splendid anonymity, we can walk around and be left alone," said Edward Lazarus, a former Supreme Court clerk and author of a book on the justices. "And this question really raises, in the post-9/11 era, the issue of whether that's really true anymore."

According to an AP report, justices were told that 20 states have similar laws to the Nevada statute upheld by the high court: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The case is Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the state of Nevada, 03-5554.
  2004-06-21
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