White Lightning Axiom: Redux: Vhere are your Papers, Citizen?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Vhere are your Papers, Citizen?

Erik Smith pointed this out on slash-dot to me this morning:

"Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that anybody can be compelled at any time to identify themselves, if a police officer asks. People who refuse to identify themselves, even if they are not suspected of a crime, will be arrested. Sound Orwellian? The Supreme Court also said people who are suspected of another crime might not be subject to arrest for not revealing their name. On this latter point, someone will have to bring a separate case. And the SCOTUS is at liberty not to hear any case it doesn't like. The case is Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada [pdf]. Previous Slashdot story here."

Hey, yeah. I heard that on NPR on the way home last night. It is a very dangerous precedent for personal civil liberties, but I don't think that the 'long slippery slope' is going to suck us down into an "authoritarian hegemony" (did I abuse that phrase?). This particular law has been on the books in many states for a very long time now. The thing not noted here is that the request must be made in conjunction with an on-going investigation. Meaning that, a police officer may not just walk up to you and ask for ID, he must be actively acting on a complaint or investigation to do so. (i.e. disturbance report, theft in the area, etc...) Here in Pennsylvania, driving at night without your headlights on is 'Attempting to conceal oneself from authorities' and can be punishable by a good amount of time in jail. This is almost never enforced. The case this is based on was by a man who acted pretty belligerently towards a patrol officer who was looking out for the best interests of the public.


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