Friday, April 11, 2014

Caught on Video: Law Abiding Citizen Threatened With Arrest for Refusing to Provide ID; Tells West Lafayette City Cop: "This is not Communist Red China!"

                                  Video submitted by Jon David Held of Lafayette

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
During the conversation Held told the officer he was recording the incident.  Shortly after this disclosure, the officer told the driver he was free to leave.  Held did not provide a driver's license and was not arrested.

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.
Held's situation did not escalate to the point of arrest, thankfully; however, his father is concerned that it could have easily turned into a nightmare for all parties involved.

"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.


  1. This does seem to be a learning experience for all here....I guess I did not realize we had that right to refuse providing ID to an officer if asked for it...I guess I am glad that we do...Our government in some cases would like us to be able to vote without ID but not to go get a pizza....This was good we all learned something here...


  2. Never, never, never answer questions and carry on a conversation with the police without an attorney. You run the risk of misspeaking in the heat of the moment and providing information that could be used against you and/or unintentionally give off an attitude that could escalate the situation. Only answer a question that you know you must give - like your name - but everything else should have been answered with a smile and calm tone with the words "Am I being detained" or "Am I free to go?" That's it.

    1. I so agree Kurt, It is so clear that "johnny law" was trying to escalate the situation to the point that David could have been taken in. But for the grace of God, David could have opened the car door or made a gesture or in some other way granted the police full authority to "take him to jail".

  3. Remember, 98% of police officers just ruin things for the other 2%.

  4. Well written article, by the way. First class!

  5. If I were an officer, I would be suspicious of a person who refused to provide identification, whether it is within their rights to or not. Many times, officers get shot and killed for a lot less. I'm not saying I think he was in the right to push the issue - clearly he was not. But if you truly are an upstanding citizen who respects the sacrifices these people make in order to uphold the law, why argue legal semantics with him just because you want to 'exercise your rights'? If you are truly that knowledgeable about the law(s), could you not simply cite the law, provide your ID, and if you happen to get arrested for something you feel is not your fault, litigate?

  6. Ok Anony 11:25 << I would be suspicious of a person who refused to provide identification>> Are you also suspicious of everyone you don't know? Are you suspicious of someone who won't tell you what they had for breakfast? Are you suspicious of someone who doesn't speak your language and can't understand the question or isn't able to respond? Are you suspicious of the president if he won't tell you where he is going to sleep tonight? Are you suspicious of the Denny's waitress who won't give you her full name, address and phone number? Or are you just suspicious of a college student who is riding as a passenger in a car, on the way to get a pizza, who won't turn over his Indiana automobile operators license. After all, the license plate bulb was burned out. What else would pique your suspicion, if the student wouldn't turn over his telephone so the police officer can "check just who you been calling"? How about if the officer asked to see his Purdue transcripts, "let's see how you been doing in your classes, it's a little late to be out on a school night!!!" No Anon 11:25 you are wrong on this one. You make the claim that a << upstanding citizen who respects the sacrifices these people (cops) make in order to uphold the law>> is something to be aspired to. Yet you are not the least bit concerned that the cops in this situation were not at all interested in "upholding the law". The law is clear. Unless someone is suspected of a crime the cop has no "right" to insist on self identification, especially with an empty threat of jail time. This Purdue student already went far and above what is required of him when he identified himself (without being suspected of a crime) he just wasn't about to turn over his operators license, transcript, diary, phone number or what ever else this unlawful cop wanted.

    1. Well said Iwana, it's beyond a little disturbing just how far the police are willing to push their authority. No one is claiming that their job is not tough. A lot of people have tough jobs, try the military for example. Yet in the military there is a code of ethics that must not be broken. It seems like these cops are only interested in pushing their weight around, the heck with personal liberties, they just get in the way.