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Can I Be Arrested for Not Giving My Name to the Police?

The short answer is, If you live in Nevada, yes. Neither the Fourth nor Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides protection against arrest if you refuse to give your name to an investigating officer in Nevada.

A Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy received a report of a man assaulting a woman. The deputy responded to the location and asked the man to identify himself. The man, Larry Dudley Hiibel, refused – 11 times. Ultimately, he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer in the discharge of his duties, because Nevada law explicitly provides that a detainee must provide his name to an investigating officer.

Stop-and-frisk laws

Most investigatory stops by law enforcement are governed by what are known as stop-and-frisk laws spawned by a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. These cases hold that while the detention of a person is indeed a seizure under the U.S. Constitution, such a seizure is permitted so long as:

  • The law enforcement officer can explain what objective facts gave rise to a objectively reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring or is about to occur, AND
  • The detention was brief enough for the officer to determine whether or not his or her suspicion was correct.

While none of the early stop-and-frisk cases directly addressed the issue of compulsory identification, Mr. Hiibel’s case finally brought the issue squarely before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Compulsory identification in Nevada

In the Hiibel case, the U.S. Supreme Court neatly sidestepped the Fourth Amendment argument by noting that in the normal course of police investigations, officers are permitted to ask a suspect’s identity, which identity serves legitimate government interests. Here, the request for his name did not prolong or change Mr. Hiibel’s detention, so the Nevada statute requiring that citizens identify themselves to officers was held constitutional. The Supreme Court added that no Fifth Amendment rights were violated either as his name alone did not serve to incriminate the suspect. Regardless of Mr. Hiibel’s subjective feeling that he should not be compelled to identify himself, the Supreme Court concluded that the Fifth Amendment could not override Nevada’s statute compelling his identification absent a reasonable belief that the disclosure would tend to incriminate him.

The arrest for resisting, delaying and obstructing the officer also was upheld because the criminal sanction ensured that the statute requiring identification had the force of law behind it.

If an encounter with law enforcement has deprived you of your constitutional rights, get solid legal advice from an experienced criminal law defense attorney in Nevada before going forward with your case.

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