Court: refusal to identify law applies to passengers

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Although state law allows police to request identification from passengers inside a car that they’ve stopped, two Indianapolis officers shouldn’t have arrested a man for refusing to identify himself when there was no reasonable suspicion he’d done anything wrong.

The Indiana Court of Appeals addressed that issue in a six-page opinion today in Adam Starr v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0912-CR-677, which overturned a ruling by Marion Superior Judge David Certo.

In September 2009, officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department arrested Adam Starr for refusing to identify himself, a Class C misdemeanor as defined by Indiana Code 34-28-5-3.5. Two officers pulled over a vehicle driven by Starr’s girlfriend, who’d made an illegal turn. After determining her identity, the officers questioned Starr about his identity. He denied having any ID, claimed he could not remember his Social Security umber, and said his name was “Mr. Horrell.”

After police found a photo ID in the vehicle, he claimed the person pictured was his “identical cousin.” Officers determined his real identify and that an active protective order prohibited any contact between Starr and his girlfriend, and police arrested him on charges of privacy invasion and refusal to identify himself. Starr was acquitted on the privacy invasion charge, but convicted on the refusal charge and received an eight-day sentence in the Marion County Jail.

On appeal, he argued that the statute criminalizing the refusal to identify oneself is directed toward the driver of a vehicle stopped for a traffic offense and not to the passengers.

The appellate court determined that the legislature had not categorically excluded passengers from the statute’s scope and that police are able to detain passengers in certain circumstances during and as a result of those stops. But this case didn’t present circumstances, such as resistance, that allowed the police conduct.

Though most will comply with an officer’s request, the police power to request and obtain this identification isn’t unlimited, the appellate court pointed out.
“In the context of a traffic stop for a vehicular violation, the Good Faith Belief statute provides for detention of a person who, in the ‘good faith’ belief of the officer, ‘has committed an infraction or ordinance violation,'" Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.


“The Refusal to Identify Self statute then criminalizes the refusal to comply with an officer’s lawful request under the statute authorizing detention. In this instance, although Starr was ‘stopped’ when the vehicle in which he was a passenger was ‘stopped,’ there is no showing that Starr was stopped as a consequence of any conduct on his part. There was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an infraction or ordinance violation, giving rise to an obligation to identify himself upon threat of criminal prosecution.”

As a result, he didn’t fall within the scope of the state statute and his conviction must be reversed, the court ruled.


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues