ID Card Required to Ride a Public Bus?

In Denver, you now have to show an ID card to ride a public bus: Deborah Davis :: Want to Ride? Papers, Please.

But wait! It’s not just any bus — it goes through a federal facility (“the Denver Federal Center, a collection of government offices such as the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and part of the National Archives”). That does distinguish it a little from a regular bus that goes on a normal street, but not very much, especially as there’s no notice as to the ID requirement before you board the bus, unlike at the entrance to a federal building.

The ACLU is on the case, and we’ll see what happens to this case presenting one of the issues left open in the unfortunate Hiibel decision.

The aspect of the case that especially caught my eye is the arresting officer’s statement in the Incident Report . The arresting officer states that he told the defendant (and I’m sure he honestly believes) that the Supreme Court approved of a requirement that an ID be shown. But — as I predicted would happen — this police version of the holding mis-states the law, at least as regards public spaces (federal buildings may be a different story).

In the most recent case on the subject, Hiibel, the Supreme Court explicitly left the “show your ID” question open: the Court said that state legislatures can enact “stop and identify” laws which empower a police officer to require a person to identify themselves — orally — in cases where there is some minimal reason to suspect someone (i.e. a Terry stop). That’s a far cry from both requiring showing of an ID, and especially from suspicionless ID requirements. Indeed, the Court explicitly did not decide whether an ID could be required.

In contrast, the Nevada Supreme Court has interpreted NRS §171.123(3) to require only that a suspect disclose his name. See 118 Nev., at ___, 59 P. 3d, at 1206 (opinion of Young, C. J.) (The suspect is not required to provide private details about his background, but merely to state his name to an officer when reasonable suspicion exists.). As we understand it, the statute does not require a suspect to give the officer a driver’s license or any other document. Provided that the suspect either states his name or communicates it to the officer by other means — a choice, we assume, that the suspect may make — the statute is satisfied and no violation occurs.

(The majority also said in no uncertain terms that the decision only applied when there were no 5th Amendment issues, but there presumably are not any in this case either.)

There isn’t much doubt that the courts accept that the government can require ID to enter public buildings, although this has occasionally been controversial in connection with some court proceedings in which the issue is whether the defendant must disclose ID. There’s some danger that this case might get decided on that issue rather than the broader right to travel which, unfortunately, is being eroded yet again.

This entry was posted in ID Cards and Identification. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ID Card Required to Ride a Public Bus?

  1. M. Reiner says:

    The government announced today that it is changing its emblem from an eagle to a condom because it more accurately reflects the government’s political stance.

    A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you’re actually being screwed.

  2. I don’t know if it is applicable, but there is case law on public rights-of-way through military property from, among other places, the golden gate Bridge: the south approach at the San Francisco end of the bridge passes through what was, when the bridge was built and until recently, the Presidio of San Francisco. The military granted the public right of way in perpetuity through the Presidio to reach the bridge, in exchange for a right in perpetuity of toll-free bridge passage of military traffic. Recently it has been turned over to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There have been several instances of Presidio MP’s interfering with attempted political marches to the bridge, but I don’t recall how they turned out. There are complications: the state highway is an expressway from which pedestrians and bicyclists are excluded, so the only possible way for them to exercise their right of way to the bridge is on other paths and roads through the Presidio. A search for cases to which the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District was a party should turn them up. There are also Golden Gate Transit busses through the Presidio and over the bridge, but I don’t think they have fugured in any of the published decisions.

  3. I was blogging about this just now, after my brother sent me Bill Scannell’s email on it, had a hunch you might be on it. Unless my search terms aren’t good, you are the first blogger to cover the story.

Comments are closed.