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Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada

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Citation. 542 U.S. 960

Brief Fact Summary. After learning that an assault was committed, a police officer asked an individual to provide his name, but the individual refused.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Neither the Fourth or Fifth Amendment is violated when an individual can be arrested for not providing their name to an officer after the officer asks for it.


Facts. The police received a phone call reporting an assault. The caller reported seeing a man assault a woman in a red and silver GMC truck. An officer was sent to the site to investigate and he saw a truck matching the description parked on the side of the road. There were skid marks near the car leading the office to believe that the truck had come to a sudden stop. A man was standing near the truck and a woman was inside. The officer asked the man for his identification eleven times, but the man refused to provide any. The man began to taunt the officer by telling him to arrest him and take him into jail. The officer eventually arrested the man for his failure to comply.
The man was arrested and charged with “willfully resisting, delaying, or obstructing a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge any legal duty of his office” in violation of a Nevada statute. The trial court found the individual “obstructed and delayed [the officer] as a public officer in attempting to discharge his duty”. The state appellate court affirmed “rejecting Hiibel’s argument that the application of [the Nevada statute] to his case violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.” The Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment challenges.
The statute does not violate the Fourth Amendment. “Asking questions is an essential part of police investigations. In the ordinary course a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment. ‘[I]nterrogation relating to one’s identity or a request for identification by the police does not, by itself, constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure.’ ” Further, “[o]btaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder. On the other hand, knowing identity may help clear a suspect and allow the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Identity may prove particularly important in cases such as this, where the police are investigating what appears to be a domestic assault. Officers called to investigate domestic disputes need to know whom they are dealing with in or
der to assess the situation, the threat to their own safety, and possible danger to the potential victim.”
“The principles of [Terry] permit a State to require a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a [Terry] stop. The reasonableness of a seizure under the Fourth Amendment is determined ‘by balancing its intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate government interests.’ The Nevada statute satisfies that standard. The request for identity has an immediate relation to the purpose, rationale, and practical demands of a [Terry] stop. The threat of criminal sanction helps ensure that the request for identity does not become a legal nullity. On the other hand, the Nevada statute does not alter the nature of the stop itself: it does not change its duration, or its location. A state law requiring a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a valid [Terry] stop is consistent with Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
The probable cause requirement is not circumvented by giving an officer the ability to arrest someone for not providing their name to an officer. “It is clear in this case that the request for identification was ‘reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified’ the stop. The officer’s request was a commonsense inquiry, not an effort to obtain an arrest for failure to identify after a [Terry] stop yielded insufficient evidence. The stop, the request, and the State’s requirement of a response did not contravene the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment.”
The Fifth Amendment prohibits compelled incriminating testimony. “In this case petitioner’s refusal to disclose his name was not based on any articulated real and appreciable fear that his name would be used to incriminate him, or that it ‘would furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute’ him.” Further, “[a]s best we can tell, petitioner refused to identify himself only because he thought his name was none of the officer’s business. Even today, petitioner does not explain how the disclosure of his name could have been used against him in a criminal case. While we recognize petitioner’s strong belief that he should not have to disclose his identity, the Fifth Amendment does not override the Nevada Legislature’s judgment to the contrary absent a reasonable belief that the disclosure would tend to incriminate him.

Discussion. In the context of the Fifth Amendment the majority observes “a case may arise where there is a substantial allegation that furnishing identity at the time of a stop would have given the police a link in the chain of evidence needed to convict the individual of a separate offense. In that case, the court can then consider whether the privilege applies, and, if the Fifth Amendment has been violated, what remedy must follow.”


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