Two Purdue college friends were on their way to pick up a pizza from Papa John's recently when they were stopped by WLPD officer Nathaniel Biddle because of a burned out license plate bulb. The driver complied with the officer's request to show identification and proof of insurance.
The passenger in the video, however, challenged the legality of the police officers' demands that he also provide a driver's license. Jon David Held, the passenger, verbally provided his name and date of birth and explained that he was not legally required to provide a driver's license since he was a passenger who had broken no law. This challenge prompted Biddle to call back-up officer Marcus Slifer. The officers warned Held that he must comply or they could arrest him.
"This is not Communist Red China!," Held argued during the exchange. Held stated that he should be able to go from his home to a pizza place without being stopped and harassed by the police and forced to show his papers.
Held explained to the officer that he wasn't trying to be uncooperative, but that he loves his rights and chose not to give them up. Further, Held argued that he takes issue with being treated as if he were a criminal. Held explained that he gets irritated when police officers treat innocent people like criminals when that's not how the constitution works.
|Held center with hat was awarded an Eagle Scout badge by Sheriff Tracy Brown|
Since this issue continues to rear its ugly head in our community, the LCJ would like to address the misconception that officers are entitled to harass law abiding citizens for identification.
Many police officers, including the ones in this video, falsely claim that passengers who are riding in vehicles that are stopped for minor traffic infractions must provide a driver's license.
The Courts have stated otherwise, including the Indiana Court of Appeals in a 2010 decision against Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officers, Charles Tice and Davis Ellis.
The defendant, Adam Starr, appealed his conviction of Refusal to Identify Self, a Class C misdemeanor, arguing that a vehicular passenger is not subject to the same criminal penalties by refusing to identify himself when there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an infraction or violated an ordinance.
The Appeals Court agreed with Starr. You can read the entire ruling at this link.
"There is no showing that Starr was stopped as a consequence of any conduct on his part. There was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an infraction or ordinance violation, giving rise to an obligation to identify himself upon threat of criminal prosecution. Accordingly, Starr did not fall within the purview of the Refusal to Identify Self statute. His conviction must be reversed."
It is clear that the officers in this video and the one involving Erin Gardner had no probable cause for demanding a driver's license for passengers who had committed no criminal offense.
In Gardner's case, she was allegedly assaulted and arrested by LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb. Gardner has stated that she intends to file a Civil Rights lawsuit as a result.
|David Held didn't feel so welcome.|
"The officers were clearly trying to escalate this situation so they'd have a valid reason to shut what they thought of as a 'young punk' up," commented the senior Held.
"There was too much blood spilled across this country to just give up our rights," said Held who remains proud of his son for standing up against local tyranny.
Indiana Code 34-28-5-3.5 for Refusal to identify self clearly defines "A person who knowingly or intentionally refuses to provide either the person's: (1) name, address, and date of birth; or (2) driver's license, if in the person's possession; to a law enforcement officer who has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation commits a Class C misdeanor."
Held was not driving, therefore, he did not commit any type of infraction.
Gardner was charged with Failure to identify self; however, she was also not driving the vehicle that was stopped. The officer claims she was not wearing a seatbelt, although there was no way for him to know that since he did not see her until the car was completely stopped.
Gardner has maintained that she was wearing a seatbelt when the car was moving, and did not remove it until she went to reach for her purse when the car was fully stopped. She plans to sue the LPD in federal court for violating her civil rights.
It is obvious to most fair-minded people that these bogus charges are just a means for officers to abuse their power and the law. They really need to focus on going after real crime and stop harrassing law-abiding citizens.