Identify Yourself

The U.S. Supreme Court says Florida, Georgia and several other states can make it a crime to withhold your name from a police officer. Local officers say it's great news as they try to keep our communities safe.

By a five to four vote, the U.S. Supreme Court said requiring suspects to give their name was not an intrusion of their privacy, it's a ruling that local officers are praising.

Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, officers in Florida and Georgia can charge suspects for withholding their names. Officers say the court's approval of this law helps strengthen their ability to assess dangerous situations correctly.

LT Brian Childress with the Valdosta Police Department says, "I think the court in their infinite wisdom came out and said we need to give police officers a little leeway to do their job. I think that's exactly what this does for us."

Authorities say the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court wasn't really designed to crackdown on those folks who are walking up and down a back alley in the middle of the afternoon, but rather to stop and question folks when they're here late at night causing suspicious activity.

Childress adds, "We're not just going to stop the public just because they are walking down the street, but if you're walking behind a building at two o'clock in the morning, isn't that unusual? Wouldn't that rise to the level of suspicion? It might."

Some of the opposing justices felt the laws infringed on a person's right to privacy or protection from self incrimination. Local officers say it can only benefit the law abiding public.

"If they have a reason to stop someone and they request they provide their ID, they are now able to get that," says Childress.

This ruling will remain the law of the land, but justices say the issue could be readdressed if a name is used to convict a suspect of a different, unrelated crime.

The kind of charges that local people face if they refuse to provide their names could range anywhere from a misdemeanor charge for obstruction of justice to possible felony charges depending on the situation between the suspect and the officer.