- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003


The Supreme Court said yesterday it would consider whether people have a constitutional right to refuse to tell police their names.

Justices will review the prosecution of a man under a Nevada law that requires people suspected of wrongdoing to identify themselves to police or face arrest.

The issue had split the Nevada Supreme Court, which sided with police on a 4-3 vote last year in a case involving a man who refused 11 times to give his name to officers.

The man was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, based on his silence.

The justices will hear arguments next year in the latest in a handful of cases this term that pit law enforcement against a person’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches. Justices next month will consider whether police can arrest all occupants of a car during a traffic stop in which drugs are found.

In the Nevada case, an attorney for Larry Hiibel argued that he did not believe he had done anything wrong when officers approached his parked truck in Humboldt County in 2000.

He was suspected of drinking and driving and of hitting his daughter. Prosecutors later dropped a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, and he was not charged with drunken driving.

His lawyer, public defender James P. Logan, said in a filing that in some parts of the country “a person under a shadow of suspicion, who has not committed any crime, can be approached by the police, do absolutely nothing, and yet be arrested, convicted and incarcerated.”

“It is inimical to a free society that mere silence can lead to imprisonment,” he wrote.

The identification requirement helps police avoid wrongful arrests, state attorney Conrad Hafen told the justices, and it only applies when officers have a reasonable suspicion of a crime.

The Nevada Supreme Court had said the case had implications for the government’s terrorism fight. “We are at war against enemies who operate with concealed identities and the dangers we face as a nation are unparalleled,” wrote Chief Justice Cliff Young.

In other action yesterday, the court:

• Agreed to look at cases in which judges reject federal guidelines and hand out longer prison sentences.

• Canceled arguments scheduled for next month in an Arizona case involving police rules for searching stopped cars.

• Refused to consider whether a presidential pardon completely clears a person’s past.

• Cleared the way for three current and former Louisiana inmates to sue state prison officials.

• Refused to get involved in a dispute between North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and his opponent in the last election over an advertisement.

• Rejected the appeal of Texas death-row inmate Nanon Williams who was 17 when he was accused of killing a man during a robbery.

• Ruled that a defense lawyer who told jurors his client might be a “stinking thief jail bird” did not fall down on the job, a decision that reinstated a California man’s conviction for stabbing his pregnant girlfriend.

• Refused to stop a defamation lawsuit filed by an Iowa woman over a church letter.

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