“A name is the key to unlock data which is endless, given the state of technology,” said Robert Dolan, a public defender from Winnemucca, Nev. A Nevada law that requires citizens to identify themselves to police “tips the balance too much to the state” and makes privacy “part of history,” he said.
Dolan’s arguments came in a case brought by Larry “Dudley” Hiibel, a feisty cattle rancher from Winnemucca who, during a roadside encounter with a sheriff’s deputy in May 2000, refused 11 requests to identify himself. The deputy, who was responding to a complaint that a man was beating a girl in the front seat of a parked pickup truck, found Hiibel standing outside the truck with the rancher’s 17-year-old daughter, Mimi, inside.
Hiibel, a rancher, has said that he and his daughter were arguing about a boyfriend of whom he had disapproved, and that she had struck her father. Hiibel, now 59, was arrested under a Nevada law that considers a refusal to give one’s name to a police officer to be misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
He was convicted and fined $250. He appealed by challenging the state law. Hiibel soon became the focus of a national test of police powers and privacy rights — one that could have implications for counterterrorism efforts and proposals for national ID cards by helping to define whether cops can request ID whenever they decide it’s necessary.
Nevada officials say the identification law Hiibel is challenging, which is similar to laws in more than 30 other states, imposes a “minimal intrusion” on citizens. The officials also point out that police requesting identification must have “reasonable suspicion” a crime might have occurred.
Conrad Hafen, a Nevada deputy attorney general, told the justices Monday that the state law “advances officer safety and promotes effective law enforcement” by allowing police to check whether citizens have arrest records or outstanding warrants.
Nevada’s Supreme Court upheld Hiibel’s conviction by a 4-3 vote.
Dolan argued that requiring Hiibel to give his name violated the rancher’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and his Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.