The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether people have a constitutional right to refuse to tell police their names.
Justices will review the prosecution of a man under a Nevada law that requires people suspected of wrongdoing to identify themselves to police, or face arrest.
The issue had split the Nevada Supreme Court, which sided with police on a 4-3 vote last year in a case involving a man who refused 11 times to give his name to officers.
The man was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, based on his silence. He was fined $250.
The justices will hear arguments next year in the latest in a handful of cases this term that pit law enforcement against a person's Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches. Justices next month will consider if police can arrest all occupants of a car during a traffic stop in which drugs are found.
In the Nevada case, an attorney for Larry Hiibel argued that he did not believe he had done anything wrong when officers approached his parked truck in Humboldt County in 2000.
He was suspected of drinking and driving and of hitting his daughter. Prosecutors later dropped a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, and he was not charged with drunken driving.
His lawyer, public defender James P. Logan, said in a filing that in some parts of the country "a person under a shadow of suspicion, who has not committed any crime, can be approached by the police, do absolutely nothing, and yet be arrested, convicted and incarcerated."
"It is inimical to a free society that mere silence can lead to imprisonment," he wrote.
The identification requirement helps police avoid wrongful arrests, state attorney Conrad Hafen told justices, and it only applies when officers have a reasonable suspicion that there was a crime.
"The public interest in crime prevention and effective police work outweighs Hiibel's claimed right of privacy," he wrote.
The Nevada Supreme Court had said the case had implications for the government's terrorism fight. "We are at war against enemies who operate with concealed identities and the dangers we face as a nation are unparalleled," wrote Chief Justice Cliff Young.
In other action Monday, the court:
- Canceled arguments scheduled for next month in a separate case involving police rules for searching stopped cars. The court said Arizona courts should reconsider whether drug evidence can be used against Rodney Gant, in light of a recent decision by that state's high court in a similar case.
- Rejected the appeal of a Texas death row inmate who was 17 when he killed a man during a robbery. Anti-death penalty groups had urged the court to use Nanon Williams' case to stop the executions of juvenile defendants.
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Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/