Two years ago I had my highest rated diary ever,Then he asked me for I.D. It rode the rec list for a couple of days and garnered 323 comments.
The situation that inspired that diary happened again, with even more entertaining and informative results. A couple of evenings ago I was a passenger in a vehicle that went through a sobriety checkpoint. The driver admitted to three beers in the previous five hours, and he was directed to pull into a nearby parking lot, exit the vehicle and do a few acrobatics, which eventually he completed satisfactorily. It took about fifteen minutes because each time he completed one test, they asked him to do something harder.
While the driver was talking to officers, another officer approached the passenger window and asked me for identification. I asked him whether I was in violation of the Vehicle Code, and he said I was not. I told him that the Vehicle Code only requires me to identify myself for the purpose of enforcing that code, so under the circumstances it did not require me to identify myself. I declined to do so.
Step over that -- thing -- for the fun.
My refusal set the officer off. For the next few minutes I was subjected to a tirade that included bogus claims and empty threats. He told me that he needed my identification because I was a "witness." I asked what I might be witnessing, since no crime seemed to be taking place in a parking lot crowded with police officers, and I did not see anyone getting arrested.
When that failed to elicit identification, he asked me whether I was on parole or probation. I laughed at him for asking such a stupid question, said I would lie about it if I was. In fact, I am 67 years old and have yet to be arrested for anything, much less on probation.
The officer suggested that I might be subject to arrest for public intoxication. I explained that I wasn't intoxicated, but even if I was, as a passenger in a private vehicle, I was entitled to be since I was not in public, and had a designated driver who was at that moment demonstrating his sobriety.
After a few more minutes in a similar vein I asked him point blank if he was going to arrest me for refusing to identify myself, because if he wasn't, we were past done here. He informed me that he could remove me from the vehicle and physically search me for identification.
I said, "You had better ask the boss about that before you do it, because it's a really bad idea." He stepped away from the vehicle and I didn't see him again. I regret of course failing to obtain his badge number. I assumed that he had checked with the boss and was told to stand down, but today I called the station and spoke to the sergeant who commanded the checkpoint, and he was unaware of the event. I can only assume the the officer dropped the subject and moved on to something productive.
A tedious intro, but that brings me to the point. I had a lengthy conversation with the sergeant who had been in command of the two dozen or so police working at the checkpoint. I started by asking whether I had been obliged to identify myself, and he said that under the circumstances, I was not. Then why, I asked, did the officer ask for identification, if he knew he wasn't entitled to it? (Not that it looked like he actually knew that.)
Well, I was told, he can ASK you anything. You have the option to refuse the request. I pointed out that I had to challenge the officer to arrest me to convince him that no means no. And you did, he said, good for you. He agreed that the officer was out of line for the continued barrage of bullshit, but without a badge number he was off the hook for any possible discipline.
I stated that my identification could be used for a warrant search without my consent, and the sergeant kindly pointed out that they can do a warrant search on ANYONE. Don't you need a name, I asked? He said, well, yes, we need that. So I said, then isn't that an excellent reason for me to withhold that information? He conceded (surprisingly) that it was.
I am one of the few non law types who has read Terry v. Ohio 1968, which includes this comment from Justice White:
"There is nothing in the Constitution which prevents a policeman from addressing questions to anyone on the streets. Absent special circumstances, the person approached may not be detained or frisked but may refuse to cooperate and go on his way. However, given the proper circumstances, such as those in this case, it seems to me the person may be briefly detained against his will while pertinent questions are directed to him. Of course, the person stopped is not obliged to answer, answers may not be compelled, and refusal to answer furnishes no basis for an arrest, although it may alert the officer to the need for continued observation."[Most people cave when asked for identification. I do not, although I have nothing to hide. Some of my friends can't believe that my lengthy history of challenging police authority has never got me busted, but that's the advantage of knowing your rights. As noted, I have never been arrested in 67 years, I have no warrants, I am a home owner, Army vet, a business owner who grew up in the community where I still live. My picture is one of four members of the class of 1963 that hangs on the wall of my high school 50 years after the commencement. I am a poster child for a law abiding citizen, even if I look to you like The Dude in The Big Lebowski.
I'm not hiding anything. I object to identifying myself on the obvious grounds. Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. I do not give implied consent to a warrant search by giving my name.
Despite the protestations of the sergeant that I always had the option of refusal, almost no one would have the confidence and the chutzpah to hold his ground in the face of a withering series of justifications for the need to show I.D. from a guy wearing a badge and gun, to the point of daring him to arrest me for failing to kowtow. When you look like The Dude, you get asked for identification a lot, so my routine is polished and I did the homework years ago. I know when identification is owed and when it is not, and will stand up to a bully's empty threats.