A Case To Watch

Court Takes Police Identification Case The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the state of Nevada, 03-5554, this term. The case—which is nominally about whether a state can require you to identify yourself to the police—could have important implications for the right to be anonymous, laws governing any national ID cards, and a host of other interesting things.

It seems to me that at least in some special cases, admitting to one's name could be a form of constitutionally prohibited self-incrimination. And even when it isn't, it's an intrusion on one's privacy. Choosing not to give one's name to the police ought never to be grounds for arrest on its own. And I'm having trouble coming up with a scenario when it ought to be one reason among a totality of circumstances, either. (Obviously, giving a name will sometimes rebut a suspicion that would suffice for an arrest, e.g. demonstrating one is an authorized person not a trespasser in a government building. But that's different — I am trying, and failing, to come up with a hypothetical case where it's proper to consider the failure to give a name as sufficiently suspicious in itself to permit arrest where it otherwise would not be permitted.)

The Nevada case raises this issue directly, since the law in question makes it an offense to refuse to identify yourself to police when suspected of an offense.

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