"The Wondering Jew"
Jan. 05, 2004 - 18:59 MST
THE WONDERING JEW
Robyn Blumner of The St. Petersburg Times has a column in The Rocky Mountian News this morning (1/5/04) By the title, "Right to remain silent"
Briefly it goes like this, "In Hilbel vs. Dist. Ct., the court will decide for the first time whether we have a right to anonymity as we go about our lives, or whether the government can demand to know who we are whenever we are out in public."
"Here are the facts: Larry Hilbel was approached in 2000 by a deputy sheriff of Humboldt County after a bystander reported seeing a man strike a female passenger inside a parked truck. According to the deputy, Hilbel appeared intoxicated and refused to identify himself when asked. Hilbel was arrested, and after the battery charge was dropped, he was gound guilty of delaying a public officer by refusing to cooperate and fined $250. Hilbel challenged his conviction on the grounds that he had a right to remain silent in the face of police questions."
"His public defender wrote in a filing, 'It is inimical to a free society that mere silence can lead to imprisonment.' "
In December 2002. the Nevada Supreme Court sided with police in a 4-to-3 split decision. The majority opinion made it seem a relative trifle to be forced to disclose one's name when police demand it. 'Reasonable people do not expect their identities -- their names -- to be withheld from officers,' wrote Chief Justice Cliff Young." "Rather we reveal our names in a variety of situations every day without much consideration."
Further on Robyn Blumner says, "If the high court agrees, it will wipe away one of the last vestiges of what Justice Louis Brandeis called our 'right to be let alone.' " She goes on, "We may give up our names and identification easily when using a credit card at the mall or meeting new business associates, but these voluntary actions are a far sight from being forced to do so through the coercive power of the state."
Ms. Blumner further mentions, "Police already have broad authority to ask anyone questions in the course of investigating a crime or mollifying a suspicion. They also can pat down a suspect to determine whether he or she is carrying a weapon. But what separates our free nation from those that are not is that no one can be compelled to affirmatively answer police questions. While most of us would probably cooperate with he police, we cannot be forced to do so."
Ms. Blumner continues, "This difference is not the trifle Young suggested; it is the whole megillah of liberty."
I did not quote the whole article, in it she cites an instance in the mid-1970s when Edward Lawson an African-American was arrested repeatedly while walking in a San Diego suburb because he refused to identify himself. Further she says, "And in 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the the statute Lawson was arrested under to be constitutionally vague."
My OPINION . . . . . It is true that we identify ourselves often for a variety of licit reasons, of our own free will. For instance I have no desire to not show picture identification when checking in for a flight, sometimes twice and at other places where it is the norm to do so. Even in the case of an auto accident it is the norm for persons involved as the driver of one or both of the vehicles to show identification to the officer who replies to the call.
It does make me shiver a bit to know that I am under video cam surveillance in every establishment I enter, seems like every move I make some form of "Big Brother" is peering at my facade.
What does concern me is the possiblity of us as citizens being forced by any officer on the street to identify ourselves at their whim. Smacks too much of the type of thing that people in Europe have been forced to do by dictatorial governments.
Indiscriminate use of these powers is too easy a thing to happen. I think those powers should not be ! When someone is arrested are those rights recited to the person being arrested ? - - - remember the rights of Miranda . . . . . . . . . .0 comments so far