Thursday, June 24, 2004

Your papers please

On Monday, by a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court decided that the police were entitled to demand that you identify yourself. The case was that of Larry Hiible of Nevada. A summary is available here.

Hiibel, who says that he has only gone through eighth grade, explains his position as follows.
"I don't believe that the authorities in the United States of America are supposed to walk up to you and ask for your papers. I thought that wasn't lawful. Apparently I was wrong, but I thought that that was part of what we were guaranteed under the Constitution. We're supposed to be free men, able to walk freely in our own country — not hampered, not stopped at checkpoints. That's part of what makes this country different from other places. That's what I was taught.

And it's not just because it's in the Constitution. It's something that you just kind of know. It's kind of obvious. If you haven't committed a crime, you shouldn't be harassed by the police. ...

It seems to me that the whole idea of 'your-papers-please' goes completely against the grain of the American people."
The complete text of his statement is available here., a web site supporting Hiibel's position, has a video of the arrest and other information.

The usual suspects were on the usual sides. In favor: Kennedy, O'Connor, Renquist, Scalia, and Thomas. Opposed: Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens.

The Nevada public defender office, which represented Hiibel, issued the following statment, "A Nevada cowboy courageously fought for his right to be let alone but lost."

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