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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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