Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev., Humboldt Cty.
Annotate this Case
542 U.S. 177 (2004)
OCTOBER TERM, 2003
HIIBEL V. SIXTH JUDICIAL DIST. COURT OF NEV.,HUMBOLDT CTY.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
HIIBEL v. SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT OF NEVADA, HUMBOLDT COUNTY, et al.
certiorari to the supreme court of nevada
No. 03–5554. Argued March 22, 2004—Decided June 21, 2004
Petitioner Hiibel was arrested and convicted in a Nevada court for refusing to identify himself to a police officer during an investigative stop involving a reported assault. Nevada’s “stop and identify” statute requires a person detained by an officer under suspicious circumstances to identify himself. The state intermediate appellate court affirmed, rejecting Hiibel’s argument that the state law’s application to his case violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed.
Held: Petitioner’s conviction does not violate his Fourth Amendment rights or the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on self-incrimination. Pp. 3–13.
(a) State stop and identify statutes often combine elements of traditional vagrancy laws with provisions intended to regulate police behavior in the course of investigatory stops. They vary from State to State, but all permit an officer to ask or require a suspect to disclose his identity. In Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U. S. 156, 167–171, this Court invalidated a traditional vagrancy law for vagueness because of its broad scope and imprecise terms. The Court recognized similar constitutional limitations in Brown v. Texas, 443 U. S. 47, 52, where it invalidated a conviction for violating a Texas stop and identify statute on Fourth Amendment grounds, and in Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U. S. 352, where it invalidated on vagueness grounds California’s modified stop and identify statute that required a suspect to give an officer “credible and reliable ” identification when asked to identify himself, id., at 360. This case begins where those cases left off. Here, the initial stop was based on reasonable suspicion, satisfying the Fourth Amendment requirements noted in Brown. Further, Hiibel has not alleged that the Nevada statute is unconstitutionally vague, as in Kolender. This statute is narrower and more precise. In contrast to the “credible and reliable” identification requirement in Kolender, the Nevada Supreme Court has interpreted the instant statute to require only that a suspect disclose his name. It apparently does not require him to produce a driver’s license or any other document. If he chooses either to state his name or communicate it to the officer by other means, the statute is satisfied and no violation occurs. Pp. 3–6.
(b) The officer’s conduct did not violate Hiibel’s Fourth Amendment rights. Ordinarily, an investigating officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Amendment. INS v. Delgado, 466 U. S. 210, 216. Beginning with Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, the Court has recognized that an officer’s reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in criminal activity permits the officer to stop the person for a brief time and take additional steps to investigate further. Although it is well established that an officer may ask a suspect to identify himself during a Terry stop, see, e.g., United States v. Hensley, 469 U. S. 221, 229, it has been an open question whether the suspect can be arrested and prosecuted for refusal to answer, see Brown, supra, at 53, n. 3. The Court is now of the view that Terry principles permit a State to require a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a Terry stop. Terry, supra, at 34. The Nevada statute is consistent with Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures because it properly balances the intrusion on the individual’s interests against the promotion of legitimate government interests. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 654. An identity request has an immediate relation to the Terry stop’s purpose, rationale, and practical demands, and the threat of criminal sanction helps ensure that the request does not become a legal nullity. On the other hand, the statute does not alter the nature of the stop itself, changing neither its duration nor its location. Hiibel argues unpersuasively that the statute circumvents the probable-cause requirement by allowing an officer to arrest a person for being suspicious, thereby creating an impermissible risk of arbitrary police conduct. These familiar concerns underlay Kolender, Brown, and Papachristou. They are met by the requirement that a Terry stop be justified at its inception and be “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified” the initial stop. Terry, 392 U. S., at 20. Under those principles, an officer may not arrest a suspect for failure to identify himself if the identification request is not reasonably related to the circumstances justifying the stop. Cf. Hayes v. Florida, 470 U. S. 811, 817. The request in this case was a commonsense inquiry, not an effort to obtain an arrest for failure to identify after a Terry stop yielded insufficient evidence. The stop, the request, and the State’s requirement of a response did not contravene the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 6–10.
(c) Hiibel’s contention that his conviction violates the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on self-incrimination fails because disclosure of his name and identity presented no reasonable danger of incrimination. The Fifth Amendment prohibits only compelled testimony that is incriminating, see Brown v. Walker, 161 U. S. 591, 598, and protects only against disclosures that the witness reasonably believes could be used in a criminal prosecution or could lead to other evidence that might be so used, Kastigar v. United States, 406 U. S. 441, 445. Hiibel’s refusal to disclose was not based on any articulated real and appreciable fear that his name would be used to incriminate him, or that it would furnish evidence needed to prosecute him. Hoffman v. United States, 341 U. S. 479, 486. It appears he refused to identify himself only because he thought his name was none of the officer’s business. While the Court recognizes his strong belief that he should not have to disclose his identity, the Fifth Amendment does not override the Nevada Legislature’s judgment to the contrary absent a reasonable belief that the disclosure would tend to incriminate him. Answering a request to disclose a name is likely to be so insignificant as to be incriminating only in unusual circumstances. See, e.g., Baltimore City Dept. of Social Servs. v. Bouknight, 493 U. S. 549, 555. If a case arises where there is a substantial allegation that furnishing identity at the time of a stop would have given the police a link in the chain of evidence needed to convict the individual of a separate offense, the court can then consider whether the Fifth Amendment privilege applies, whether it has been violated, and what remedy must follow. Those questions need not be resolved here. 10–13.
118 Nev. 868, 59 P. 2d 1201, affirmed.
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor, Scalia, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter and Ginsburg, JJ., joined.