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Court: refusal to identify law applies to passengers

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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.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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