24 March 2004

The Hiibel case:

The prospect of police being able to force people to give their name on a whim is troubling to me. In almost any jurisdiction, lying to law enforcement is a crime. So you are currently left with two options. You can comply with the officer's request for information which he has no right to or you can stand silent. If Nevada has its way you won't even be able to stand silent.

The bright line standard here is so obvious that it is painful. At any time an officer has the right to briefly detain you to ask you questions. You have the right not to talk to the officer.

Let's be clear here. All your name is to an officer is a proxy. When an officer requests that you identify yourself he is asking you for your criminal and driving records. As well, in the modern age if the officer takes a further interest he can do things such as a Google search (or a search on some law enforcement database) which could yield all sorts of information. As such forcible surrender of your name to an officer can easily be an act which incriminates you. A fairly innocuous example of this might be if someone is not allowed to drink for a year after a DUI conviction and an officer walks up as he leaves the bar and tells him to ID himself.

Of course, you would hope that there is a right for an innocent citizen who doesn't want to disclose his name to refuse as well but I don't think that it exists. After all, we see this sort of reasoning all the time:
"I cannot imagine any responsible citizen would have objected to giving the name.'' - Scalia
So much for the right to be left alone. I guess it's not one of those rights "retained by the people."

Addendum: I respectfully dissent provides more analysis.

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