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Activists harassed on city street
by Danny P Wednesday, Nov. 03, 2004 at 6:01 PM

I was just harassed, threatened with arrest, and accused of terrorism while waiting outside the Allegheny County Jail, waiting in solidarity for the N3 arrestees.

A group of around 7 of us were outside waiting in solidarity for the arrestees, making smalltalk, discussing politics, and waiting for someone to come and feed us pizza. Then, two police officers approached us and said they received a report that we were writing down license plate numbers, and they wanted to check all of our IDs.

Some in our group complied, but I refused. Last I checked county property was a public place, and I was doing nothing wrong and just sitting outside. I was asked if I had any ID on me, and I replied "I'd rather not answer that." He then asked me "if I was being disorderly" and I told him I didn't think I was being disorderly. I asked him if I was free to go. He told me I was not, as this was part of a "criminal investigation."

I then asked him if I was being detained. He didn't really answer that question, and repeated "I'm just trying to get your ID" - he told me it was against the law in Pennsylvania to not give your ID to a police officer. I told him I didn't think that was right, and he asked "why would I lie to you?"

Around this time, his partner came over and he indicated to him that I was being "uncooperative." He repeated the bullshit accusation that we were writing down license plates, and said it could be some sort of "terrorism." Now that I was talking to both cops, I asked the other guy if I was free to go. He told me I was. I asked if I could return later tonight, and I was told that if I returned that night I would be arrested for defiant trespass.

It was bullshit, but I didn't want to get arrested for nothing and have all of my possessions searched. I feel almost guilty for backing down in the face of the police. I think people should remember that cops do lie, cops do deny people their rights, and cops arrest people for doing nothing against the law (see the case of Ken Miller getting arrested at Point State Park for handing out leaflets).

Let's all remember that people go shit like this and worse every day; there are people in prison today who are there because they didn't know their rights, or their political beliefs- my experience was lousy, but it wasn't the worst thing to ever happen at that Allegheny County Jail.

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Others who didn't give ID
by Danny P Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 4:49 AM

Apparently others who didn't give ID (who did so after me) weren't threatned with arrest.

I'm wondering whether it was sexism, racism, or just plain retardation that caused me to get special treatment.

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Try obeying the law for a change
by Officer Krumpky Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 6:48 AM

It is agaisnt the law to fail to produce identification to a police officer.

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Dear Officer Chumpie
by .............. Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 8:14 AM

Why don't you work on your spelling instead of trolling here..................

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Hiibel Case
by Covington Law Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 11:21 AM

it looks as though a request for identification (and subsequent arrest for failure to furnish identification) may be legal under certain circumstances after a recent Supreme Court decision. I am not sure as to whether PA has adopted a law requiring this, though I don't think failure to furnish id w/o the law would constitute "probable cause" required for arrest -- though perhaps the Terry "reasonable suspicion" for detention standard may be satisfied. See Hiibel case:

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More info.
by Covington Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 11:29 AM

Looks like one might be required to give a name in some states, but not PA. Also, while I have not examined the decision, it appears to apply to failure to give one's name, not necessarily failure to furnish id -- though giving incorrect names can also get one into trouble.

Here is a quote from another article written in March:

"That is what would happen in Pittsburgh if a suspect were to refuse to give his name, and police lacked probable cause to arrest him, city Police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. said. Since Pennsylvania doesn't have a law like Nevada's, he said, police would file a report and try to ascertain the suspect's identity in some other way."

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I have heard
by pig hater Friday, Nov. 05, 2004 at 10:34 PM

I have heard from a cop (although you can't trust them), that you can be arrested for vagrancy if you don't have an ID or some money on you. Has anyone heard that and is it true?

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by Meg Monday, Nov. 08, 2004 at 9:20 PM

There is a vagrancy law in Illinois where you can be arrested if you do not have at least one dollar on your person. The Florida vagrancy law makes it a misemeanor to be found "wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object," as shown in:
I haven't been able to find very much specifically relating to Pittsburgh, though.

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by Covington Law Tuesday, Nov. 09, 2004 at 5:07 AM

I haven't read anything in the Pennsylvania Criminal Code about vagrancy. I did find something about loitering *at night*

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Vagrancy Laws
by Covington Tuesday, Nov. 09, 2004 at 5:12 AM

Most have been found unconstitutional. Go back to the Hiibel case mentioned. here is a quote:

"Stop and identify statutes have their roots in early English vagrancy laws that required suspected vagrants to face arrest unless they gave “a good Account of themselves,” 15 Geo. 2, ch. 5, §2 (1744), a power that itself reflected common-law rights of private persons to “arrest any suspicious night-walker, and detain him till he give a good account of himself … .” 2 W. Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown, ch. 13, §6, p. 130. (6th ed. 1787). In recent decades, the Court has found constitutional infirmity in traditional vagrancy laws. In Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972), the Court held that a traditional vagrancy law was void for vagueness. Its broad scope and imprecise terms denied proper notice to potential offenders and permitted police officers to exercise unfettered discretion in the enforcement of the law. See id., at 167—171."

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show me some id
by paola Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2004 at 11:26 AM

while i don't know about what would happen if you dont give an officer the correct name if it is asked for, it's not illegal to walk around without id, so i'm not sure how it could be illegal not to produce id when asked. it's not even illegal to drive without your driver's license ON YOU, as long as you DO have a valid driver's license registered with the state.

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lack of perspective
by DNorcross Monday, Nov. 22, 2004 at 6:52 AM n/a Boston

To be quite frank, I don't know as much about your reason to protest (and that was the feel I got from your gathering, if I misconstrued it, I apologize) though I do feel you were approached in an attempt to disarm any small scale disturbances. THAT being said, you were getting some pizza (because, god forbid, you were hungry) brought to you and had presented no real threat of violence or severe disruption and his attitude and demeanor to you (sp) was probably unneeded. I'm ex military and had a great image of police until I ran into one of these West Side Story rejects who felt the need to intimidate and bully because someone was dumb enough to give their over-agressive butts a badge and a gun rather than a 1 year membership to Jenny Craig.

City employees like this give the ones out there trying to do something good a bad name.

p.s. my apologies for my abuse and dismantling of the english language at any time in my post.

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by Hilary Sunday, May. 20, 2007 at 5:38 PM

My only question is, how does anyone have the right to force you to carry identification, period???

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