Do You Owe the State Your Name if You Have Not Committed A Crime?

Carlos Miller has an interesting story from New Hampshire, where a man was arrested for bringing a camera into a courtroom, and then has been detained for weeks in prison because he refuses to tell his captors his name.  By the way, filming and picture taking is explicitly allowed in courts by New Hampshire law and past state supreme court rulings.  The judge who presides over the court in question began banning cameras from court, despite having no legal right to do so, last year after he was personally embarrassed by a YouTube video of his courtroom temper tantrum.  The state has yet to point to the precise statute that requires courtroom visitors to provide their names on demand.  One would think the worst that could happen is to be told that revealing one's name is a security requirement and that those refusing to do so are barred entry.  But 22 days in jail?

Also yet to occur is any arrest or prison sentence for a judge who flaunts the very state law he is sworn to uphold.


  1. John O.:

    Habeas Corpus can be sought in any competent New Hampshire or federal court, so why any other court is not intervening is rather surprising. Not only is this dangerous as those other judges are "washing their hands" of the issue, it will also set a future precedence that can be abused. And the person's judgeship should be revoked, unfortunately that would likely require an impeachment proceeding which is an unwanted distraction for the New Hampshire Legislature.

    -- John O.

  2. Henry Boman:

    There was a case in Nevada a few years ago in which a fellow was stopped by a cop and asked his name. The man who was stopped refused to provide his name unless the cop told him why he was stopped. The cop arrested the fellow. The case made its was to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that one does indeed have to provide your name.

    There was a video (made from the deputy sheriff's vehicle) of the encounter that was circulating, but I cannot seem to locate it now. As I recall, the situation is also covered in Boston T. Party's You and the Police, a small book that is worthwhile reading.

  3. DrTorch:


    I remember reading that story too. It happened probably a decade ago. Very frightening results IMO.

  4. Jens Fiederer:

    Here is a nice article on the subject - at least it was a close (5-4) decision.

  5. James:

    @ Henry & DrTorch

    Driving is a little different subject, as the state always likes to remind us, because "it's a privilege, not a right." I've always thought this line of reasoning rather ridiculous, but at least there is some safety justification for it.

    In this case, this just sounds like the Gestapo.

    @ Jens

    That article is a little misleading. The Supreme Court only upheld the Nevada statute (of which 20 other states have their own version). That decision doesn't mean this applies nationwide, it just means that a state could choose to enact such a version on their own.

  6. K:

    IMO this is a tough call.

    Judges can be petty tyrants. And maybe this one is. But we can't have effective courts if people don't have to obey the judge while in the courtroom.

    So I would say "obey the judge when you are in court." Even if you are just observing.

    Then, if you believe the judge abused her/his authority take your complaint to the appropriate forum. That might be a higher court or a supervising judge or even the legislature. Or bitch to the media.

    I personally think the police should be able to obtain the names and addresses of people who interest them. But others will disagree, and that is fine too.

    James is right. Driving is different. A passenger in the same vehicle has different rights than the driver.

    There was a case in Beverly Hills about a decade ago. A black civil rights advocate decided to repeated take strolls in residential areas about 2 am. When the police noticed him he refused to give a name or any other information.

    I think he won. (It was hard to have much sympathy for him because he intended to provoke. Still, he thought it a good thing to do.)

  7. Henry Bowman:

    I think there is some confusion here. While the Nevada rancher was indeed driving when stopped, the stop (a) was completely unrelated to his driving [the officer was investigating an unrelated crime] and (b) the Supreme Court, I believe, decided the case without considering whether the rancher was driving or not.

  8. D. Reid:

    If any Judge can enact a "requirement" the disregard of which can result in an indivdual being "arrested" and "jailed", then the Constitution of the United States is irrelevant, the Bill of Rights is useless and no person in this country is free, and individuals are totally at the arbitrary and capricious whims of the Judiciary. This Judge should be stripped of his Judgeship, disbarred, and subject to criminal prosecution for false imprisonment. There are undoubtedly lawyers willing to undertake such a lawsuit on contingency. Why hasn't this occurred?

  9. Gloobnib:

    Where is the ACLU? /