Circuit Courts

At oral argument, the appellants confirmed that a suspect violates 647(e) unless "the officer [is] satisfied that the identification is reliable. " Tr. of Oral Arg. 6. In giving examples of how suspects would satisfy the requirement, appellants explained that a jogger, who was not carrying identification, could, depending on the particular officer, be required to answer a series of questions concerning the route that he followed to arrive at the place where the officers detained him, 9 or could satisfy the identification requirement simply by reciting his name and address.

See id. , at 6-10. It is clear that the full discretion accorded to the police to determine whether the suspect has provided a "credible and reliable" identification necessarily "entrust[s] lawmaking `to the moment-to-moment judgment of the policeman on his beat. '" Smith, supra, at 575 (quoting Gregory v. Chicago, 394 U. S. 111, 120 (1969) (Black, J. , concurring)). Section 647(e) "furnishes a convenient tool for `harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure,'" Papachristou, 405 U.

S. , at 170 (quoting Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U. S. 88, 97 -98 (1940)), and "confers on police a virtually unrestrained power to arrest and charge persons with a violation. " Lewis v. City of New Orleans, 415 U. S. 130, 135 (1974) (POWELL, J. , concurring in result). In providing that a detention under 647(e) may occur only where there is the level of suspicion sufficient to justify a Terry stop, the State ensures the existence of "neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers. " Brown v.

Texas, 443 Page 361 U. S. , at 51 . Although the initial detention is justified, the State fails to establish standards by which the officers may determine whether the suspect has complied with the subsequent identification requirement. Appellants stress the need for strengthened law enforcement tools to combat the epidemic of crime that plagues our Nation. The concern of our citizens with curbing criminal activity is certainly a matter requiring the attention of all branches of government.

As weighty as this concern is, however, it cannot justify legislation that would otherwise fail to meet constitutional standards for definiteness and clarity. See Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U. S. 451 (1939). Section 647(e), as presently construed, requires that "suspicious" persons satisfy some undefined identification requirement, or face criminal punishment. Although due process does not require "impossible standards" of clarity, see United States v. Petrillo, 332 U. S. 1, 7 -8 (1947), this is not a case where further precision in the statutory language is either impossible or impractical.

IV We conclude 647(e) is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it encourages arbitrary enforcement by failing to describe with sufficient particularity what a suspect must do in order to satisfy the statute. 10 Accordingly, the judgment of [461 U. S. 352, 362]   the Court of Appeals is affirmed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. It is so ordered. Footnotes [ Footnote 1 ] California Penal Code Ann. 647(e) (West 1970) provides: "Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor: .

. . (e) who loiters or wanders upon the streets or from place to place without apparent reason or business and who refuses to identify himself and to account for his presence when requested by any peace officer so to do, if the surrounding circumstances are such as to indicate to a reasonable man that the public safety demands such identification. " [ Footnote 2 ] The District Court failed to find facts concerning the particular occasions on which Lawson was detained or arrested under 647(e).

However, the trial transcript contains numerous descriptions of the stops given both by Lawson and by the police officers who detained him. For example, one police officer testified that he stopped Lawson while walking on an otherwise vacant street because it was late at night, the area was isolated, and the area was located close to a high crime area. Tr. 266-267. Another officer testified that he detained Lawson, who was walking at a late hour in a business area where some businesses were still open, and asked for identification because burglaries had been committed by unknown persons in the general area.

Id. , at 207. The appellee states that he has never been stopped by police for any reason apart from his detentions under 647(e). [ Footnote 3 ] The appellants have apparently never challenged the propriety of declaratory and injunctive relief in this case. See Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U. S. 452 (1974). Nor have appellants ever challenged Lawson's standing to seek such relief. We note that Lawson has been stopped on approximately 15 occasions pursuant to 647(e), and that these 15 stops occurred in a period of less than two years.

Thus, there is a "credible threat" that Lawson might be detained again under 647(e). See Ellis v. Dyson, 421 U. S. 426, 434 (1975). [ Footnote 4 ] In Wainwright v. Stone, 414 U. S. 21, 22 -23 (1973), we held that "[f]or the purpose of determining whether a state statute is too vague and [461 U. S. 352, 356]   indefinite to constitute valid legislation `we must take the statute as though it read precisely as the highest court of the State has interpreted it. ' Minnesota ex rel. Pearson v. Probate Court, 309 U. S.270, 273 (1940).

" The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit noted in its decision that the state intermediate appellate court has construed the statute in People v. Solomon, 33 Cal. App. 3d 429, 108 Cal. Rptr. 867 (1973), that the State Supreme Court has refused review, and that Solomon has been the law of California for nine years. In these circumstances, we agree with the Ninth Circuit that the Solomon opinion is authoritative for purposes of defining the meaning of 647(e). See 658 F. 2d 1362, 1364-1365, n. 3 (1981).