Friday, March 19, 2004 | 11:14 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday will begin examining a Nevada law that requires people to identify themselves to police upon request even if they have done nothing wrong.
The case stems from the arrest of Larry "Dudley" Hiibel, a Northern Nevadan who refused to give his name to a deputy sheriff.
On May 21, 2000, Humboldt County Sheriff Deputy Lee Dove got a call that someone saw another person hitting a female passenger in a truck.
Dove approached Hiibel's truck as it sat on the side of the road. His daughter was in the truck, according to court documents. The officer believed Hiibel was intoxicated.
Dove asked for his name but Hiibel would not tell him and instead challenged the officer to take him to jail, according to the court records. Dove said he was doing an investigation, but Hiibel refused to provide any identification because he did not think he did anything wrong.
After refusing the officer's 11 requests for his name, Hiibel was arrested. He was eventually charged, convicted of resisting a public officer and fined $250. His daughter, Mimi Hiibel, then 17, was also arrested but charges were later dropped.
Hiibel sued, saying the arrest violated his constitutional rights. A Nevada District Court judge upheld the arrest, saying it did not violate the Fifth Amendment, which bars self-incrimination. The Nevada Supreme Court also upheld the conviction, saying it did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure.
But now the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will determine if requiring someone to answer a police officer violates the protection afforded citizens under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
Seven groups, including the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, the American Civil Liberties Union and others filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Hiibel, saying his rights were violated.
The case is getting national attention -- Hiibel was interviewed by CNN's Paula Zahn on March 4. Zahn aired police video of Dove asking him for his identification, according to transcripts. Hiibel has a copy of the video on his website, http://papersplease.org.
Hiibel, who will be in the courtroom Monday, believes if the court does not rule in his favor, the decision "will profoundly change our nation for the worse."
"What's at stake is our right to live out our lives without fear of the government using the pretext of a demand for ID as a justification to violate our constitutional rights," he says on his site.
He often compares his experience to scenes in World War II-era movies, when "a man in the hat and leather trench coat walks up to someone and demands 'the papers.' "
But Charles Hobson, an attorney with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Nevada, said that if the Supreme Court sides with the state, it is not going to create this type of situation.
"If they (police) stop just anyone on the street and ask them for their identification, they would get in trouble and it's a waste of resources," Hobson said.
In the Hiibel case, Hobson said Dove made a reasonable request since he had been called to the scene of a suspected crime. Asking Hiibel for his identification was not an invasion of privacy because giving your name cannot incriminate you, he said.
"There is nothing inherently private in telling your name," he said.
Hobson said laws and court precedents allow officers to stop and question people they reasonably suspect have committed or will commit a crime. He said leaving those tools in place are important in fighting as well as preventing crime.
"It's a matter of public safety, to protect the public at minimal cost to privacy," Hobson said.
The United States Solicitor General and the National Association of Police Organizations also filed briefs supporting the Nevada law.