U.S. Supreme Court

A California statute requires persons who loiter or wander on the streets to identify themselves and to account for their presence when requested by a peace officer. The California Court of Appeal has construed the statute to require a person to provide "credible and reliable" identification when requested by a police officer who has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity sufficient to justify a stop under the standards of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 .

The California court has defined "credible and reliable" identification as "carrying reasonable assurance that the identification is authentic and providing means for later getting in touch with the person who has identified himself. " Appellee, who had been arrested and convicted under the statute, brought an action in Federal District Court challenging the statute's constitutionality. The District Court held the statute unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Held:

The statute, as drafted and as construed by the state court, is unconstitutionally vague on its face within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to clarify what is contemplated by the requirement that a suspect provide a "credible and reliable" identification. As such, the statute vests virtually complete discretion in the hands of the police to determine whether the suspect has satisfied the statute and must be permitted to go on his way in the absence of probable cause to arrest. Pp. 355-361. 658 F. 2d 1362, affirmed and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J. , delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J. , and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ. , joined. BRENNAN, J. , filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 362. WHITE, J. , filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J. , joined, post, p. 369. A. Wells Petersen, Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were George Deukmejian, Attorney General, Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Daniel J. [461 U. S. 352, 353]   Kremer, Assistant Attorney General, and Jay M.

Bloom, Deputy Attorney General. Mark D. Rosenbaum, by invitation of the Court, 459 U. S. 964 , argued the cause as amicus curiae in support of the judgment below. With him on the brief were Dennis M. Perluss, Fred Okrand, Mary Ellen Gale, Robert H. Lynn, and Charles S. Sims. * [ Footnote * ] Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by William L. Cahalan, Edward Reilly Wilson, and Timothy A. Baughman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office; and by Wayne W. Schmidt, James P. Manak, and Fred E. Inbau for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc. , et al.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Eugene G. Iredale for the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; and by Michael Ratner for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Briefs of amici curiae were filed by John K. Van de Kamp, Harry B. Sondheim, and John W. Messer for the Appellate Committee of the California District Attorneys Association; by Dan Stormer, John Huerta, and Peter Schey for the National Lawyers Guild et al. ; and by Quin Denvir and William Blum for the State Public Defender of California. JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal presents a facial challenge to a criminal statute that requires persons who loiter or wander on the streets to provide a "credible and reliable" identification and to account for their presence when requested by a peace officer under circumstances that would justify a stop under the standards of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968). 1 We conclude that the statute as it has been construed is unconstitutionally vague within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to clarify what is contemplated [461 U. S. 352, 354]   by the requirement that a suspect provide a "credible and reliable" identification.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the court below. I Appellee Edward Lawson was detained or arrested on approximately 15 occasions between March 1975 and January 1977 pursuant to Cal. Penal Code Ann. 647(e) (West 1970). 2 Lawson was prosecuted only twice, and was convicted once. The second charge was dismissed. Lawson then brought a civil action in the District Court for the Southern District of California seeking a declaratory judgment that 647(e) is unconstitutional, a mandatory injunction to restrain enforcement of the statute, and compensatory and punitive damages against the various officers who detained him.

The District Court found that 647(e) was overbroad because "a person who is stopped on less than probable cause cannot be punished for failing to identify himself. " App. to Juris. Statement A-78. The District Court enjoined enforcement of the statute, but held that Lawson could not recover damages because the officers involved acted in the good-faith belief that each detention or arrest was lawful.