Legal Update: State v. Aloi Interfering for Failure to Provide Identification
Since the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Hibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada
, 512 US. 177, 183, 124 S. Ct, 2451, 159 L. Ed 2d 292 (2004), many inquires have been made into the authority of police officers to charge an individual for interfering with an officer under Conn. Gen. Stat. §53a-167a. In Hibel
, the Court determined the validity of a Nevada statute that required citizens to submit to a "stop and identify." Connecticut does not have a so-called "stop and identify" statute that would permit an officer to ask for or require a suspect to disclose his identity, therefore, questions remained as to Connecticut officers' authority to make an arrest based a suspect's failure to comply.
On December 22, 2006, in State v. Aloi, --- A.2d ----, 2007 WL 1858, Conn., January 02, 2007 (No. 17350.) the Connecticut Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, reversed an Appellate Court ruling and reinstated the conviction of Paul Aloi for interfering with a police officer in 2002 when he refused to provide identification. In August 2002, Aloi escalated a dispute with his neighbor, the Winding Brook Turf Farm, when he was caught on videotape on their property opening the door and activating the lights of a privately owned fire truck used to pump water from a stream to irrigate crops. Aloi activated the emergency lights, which remained on for nearly an hour. Winding Brook filed a complaint with the Wethersfield police for trespassing and Aloi was told to stay off the property and away from the truck. Two weeks later, the fire truck unexpectedly ceased operating, and when the truck was inspected, Aloi was found standing nearby. The police were again called to the scene. On arrival, officers found Aloi standing on public property near the truck with mud on his shirt. Police approached, advised Aloi of the complaint against him, and requested that he produce identification. Aloi did not immediately hand over his identification, instead stating that he did not need to comply, that he was on public property and that "this isn't Russia, I'm not showing you any [identification]…" Subsequently, he was arrested and found guilty of several charges, including interfering with a police officer in violation of §53a-167a.
The Court examined whether refusing to provide identification to a police officer who is investigating possible criminal activity pursuant to a Terry stop was permissible. It found that "because a refusal to provide identification in connection with a Terry stop may hamper or impede a police investigation into apparent criminal activity, we see no reason why such conduct would be categorically excluded under the expansive language of § 53a-167a." Also, "[a]lthough each case must be decided on its own particular facts, as a general matter, a suspect's refusal to comply with a lawful police command to provide identification following a Terry stop is likely to impede or delay the progress of the police investigation, even when that refusal is peaceable." Thus, refusal to comply with a police command to provide identification in the course of a Terry stop may constitute a violation of § 53a-167a, even if that refusal is unaccompanied by any physical force or other affirmative act. This is because the statute applies broadly to conduct that hinders, obstructs or impedes a police officer in the performance of his or her duties, irrespective of whether the offending conduct is active or passive. The Hidel court found that "[a]sking questions is an essential part of police investigations…beginning with Terry the [c]ourt has recognized that a law enforcement officer's reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in criminal activity permits the officer to stop the person for a brief time and take additional steps to investigate further…Obtaining a suspect's name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder. On the other hand, knowing identity may help clear a suspect and allow the police to concentrate the efforts elsewhere."
This decision gives support for law enforcement to arrest an individual for interfering when during a legally valid Terry stop the individual fails to provide his identification when asked.
Halloran & Sage LLP is a full service law firm with offices in Hartford, Middletown, and Westport, Connecticut, and a branch in Washington, DC. Founded in 1935, the Firm's client base ranges from Fortune 500 companies to closely held businesses, institutional and private investors, governmental units, public and private universities, and other non-profit organizations.