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Arrest and identification

The police are in the process of executing a search warrant for drug activity on a local bar.  While doing so, they see people traipsing from the bar to a Chevy Lumina in the parking lot, and then back again.  They approach the car, where the driver is rather conspicuously smoking an outsized joint.  That's only a minor misdemeanor in Ohio, which means a person can't be arrested as long as they can provide identification.  The police tell him they're going to write him a citation, and ask him for his identification.  Turns out he doesn't have any, so they arrest him, remove him from the car, and promptly find a bag containing 29 vials of marijuana.  (At least, that's what the opinion says.  I didn't know marijuana came in vials.  The march of science continues...)

The prosecutors must have been nonplussed when the trial court threw out the search on a motion to suppress, and their bewilderment could only have deepened when the 8th District unanimously affirmed that decision last week in State v. Green.  The court primarily relied on a 6th District decision from 1997, State v. Satterwhite, which held that even though the defendant didn't have any identification on him, because the police could have properly identified the defendant from his social security number, they lacked a basis for arresting him for a minor misdemeanor.

The facts in Satterwhite are a good bit more favorable to the defendant than the ones in Green.  In the former case, the defendant was jaywalking; when the police noticed he had something clenched in his hand, they approached him, asked him for identification, and promptly arrested him when he said he didn't have any.  As soon as they got him into the police vehicle, they asked for his name and social security number, and promptly identified him from that.  The opinion in Green doesn't indicate exactly when the police actually determined his identity; what's more, busting a guy for jaywalking seems to have more of the hallmarks of a roust than busting somebody who's openly smoking marijuana in a car.

What makes Satterwhite and especially Green so helpful to defendants is that it clearly places the onus on the police to determine identity, and that has far more reach than just in cases of minor misdemeanors.  As I discussed a couple months back, although there's a prevalent belief among police officers that they can arrest a motorist if he doesn't have his drivers license on him, that's not true:  the 8th District, and others, have ruled on numerous occasions that the law requires that a person either have his license or be able to supply proof of identity. 

The question, though, is how far the police have to go to determine identity.  Just last year, in State v. Spraggins, the 8th District held in dicta that the police don't have an affirmative duty to ask for a person's social security number.  Green seems to clearly hold that they do, at least in the context of an arrest for a minor misdemeanor, and it's difficult to see how the same logic wouldn't apply to an arrest for not having your drivers license on you.

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