The Nevada Supreme Court was told Tuesday the state law making it a crime not to tell police who you are is unconstitutional.
The issue was brought by Larry Hibel, who was arrested after he refused to give a Humboldt County sheriff's deputy his name. The officer had stopped him to investigate a reported battery by a man in a car.
Hibel's lawyer, public defender Jim Logan, said merely giving the officer his name would have elevated his battery to a domestic battery and a mandatory 12 hours in jail, among other penalties. Therefore, he said, in that case being forced to give his name would have violated Hibel's Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.
The Justice of the Peace in Winnemucca didn't see it that way and convicted Hibel of failure to identify himself to a police officer.
Logan pointed out that the Ninth Circuit Court has found individuals don't have to identify themselves to police.
"We have a statute saying police can arrest someone for failing to identify themself and a Ninth Circuit decision that says you can't do that," he said.
He said the Nevada law is unconstitutional and, while it may seem a civic duty to cooperate with police, it can't be made mandatory.
Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen said being forced to identify yourself is "a minimal intrusion" into someone's rights that police are entitled to make. He said Hibel was stopped on reasonable suspicion he was guilty of battery and that the request for his ID is anything but unreasonable.
Justice Deborah Agosti said if that's true, then why isn't it reasonable for the officer to go through someone's pockets.
"It's a minimal requirement to ask a person to produce identification," Hafen said.
But Chief Justice Bill Maupin pointed out that if there is no reasonable suspicion, an officer "cannot walk up to any citizen in the country and ask for ID and, when refused, make an arrest."
Hafen said a person can't be forced to incriminate himself but that giving one's name doesn't have that protection. He compared it to producing ID to rent a car or buy an airline ticket.
Agosti said that isn't the same as when a police officer demands ID. Justice Myron Leavitt added that he doesn't see why the name is that important. He said if the officer has evidence someone is involved in a crime, arrest them and get the ID from their wallet at the police station.
The issue was taken under submission.
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