The petitioner was arrested and convicted for refusing to identify himself during a stop allowed by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968). He challenges his conviction under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Hiibel argues that his conviction cannot stand because the officer's conduct violated his Fourth Amendment rights. We disagree. Asking questions is an essential part of police investigations. In the ordinary course a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment.
"[I]nterrogation relating to one's identity or a request for identification by the police does not, by itself, constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure. " INS v. Delgado, 466 U. S. 210, 216 (1984). Beginning with Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), the Court 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. Delgado, supra, at 216; United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S. 873, 881 (1975).
To ensure that the resulting seizure is constitutionally reasonable, a Terry stop must be limited. The officer's action must be " 'justified at its inception, and … reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place. ' " United States v. Sharpe, 470 U. S. 675, 682 (1985) (quoting Terry, supra, at 20). For example, the seizure cannot continue for an excessive period of time, see United States v. Place, 462 U. S.
696, 709 (1983), or resemble a traditional arrest, see Dunaway v. New York, 442 U. S. 200, 212 (1979). Our decisions make clear that questions concerning a suspect's identity are a routine and accepted part of many Terry stops. See United States v. Hensley, 469 U. S. 221, 229 (1985) ("[T]he ability to briefly stop [a suspect], ask questions, or check identification in the absence of probable cause promotes the strong government interest in solving crimes and bringing offenders to justice"); Hayes v. Florida, 470 U. S.
811, 816 (1985) ("[I]f there are articulable facts supporting a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a criminal offense, that person may be stopped in order to identify him, to question him briefly, or to detain him briefly while attempting to obtain additional information"); Adams v. Williams, 407 U. S. 143, 146 (1972) ("A brief stop of a suspicious individual, in order to determine his identity or to maintain the status quo momentarily while obtaining more information, may be most reasonable in light of the facts known to the officer at the time").
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 their efforts elsewhere. Identity may prove particularly important in cases such as this, where the police are investigating what appears to be a domestic assault.
Officers called to investigate domestic disputes need to know whom they are dealing with in order to assess the situation, the threat to their own safety, and possible danger to the potential victim. Although it is well established that an officer may ask a suspect to identify himself in the course of a Terry stop, it has been an open question whether the suspect can be arrested and prosecuted for refusal to answer. See Brown, 443 U. S. , at 53, n. 3. Petitioner draws our attention to statements in prior opinions that, according to him, answer the question in his favor.
In Terry, Justice White stated in a concurring opinion that a person detained in an investigative stop can be questioned but is "not obliged to answer, answers may not be compelled, and refusal to answer furnishes no basis for an arrest. " 392 U. S. , at 34. The Court cited this opinion in dicta in Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 439 (1984), a decision holding that a routine traffic stop is not a custodial stop requiring the protections of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
In the course of explaining why Terry stops have not been subject to Miranda, the Court suggested reasons why Terry stops have a "nonthreatening character," among them the fact that a suspect detained during a Terry stop "is not obliged to respond" to questions. See Berkemer, supra, at 439, 440. According to petitioner, these statements establish a right to refuse to answer questions during a Terry stop. We do not read these statements as controlling.
The passages recognize that the Fourth Amendment does not impose obligations on the citizen but instead provides rights against the government. As a result, the Fourth Amendment itself cannot require a suspect to answer questions. This case concerns a different issue, however. Here, the source of the legal obligation arises from Nevada state law, not the Fourth Amendment. Further, the statutory obligation does not go beyond answering an officer's request to disclose a name.
See NRS §171. 123(3) ("Any person so detained shall identify himself, but may not be compelled to answer any other inquiry of any peace officer"). As a result, we cannot view the dicta in Berkemer or Justice White's concurrence in Terry as answering the question whether a State can compel a suspect to disclose his name during a Terry stop. The principles of Terry permit a State to require a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a Terry stop.
The reasonableness of a seizure under the Fourth Amendment is determined "by balancing its intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate government interests. " Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 654 (1979). The Nevada statute satisfies that standard. The request for identity has an immediate relation to the purpose, rationale, and practical demands of a Terry stop. The threat of criminal sanction helps ensure that the request for identity does not become a legal nullity.
On the other hand, the Nevada statute does not alter the nature of the stop itself: it does not change its duration, Place, supra, at 709, or its location, Dunaway, supra, at 212. A state law requiring a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a valid Terry stop is consistent with Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures. Petitioner argues that the Nevada statute circumvents the probable cause requirement, in effect allowing an officer to arrest a person for being suspicious.
According to petitioner, this creates a risk of arbitrary police conduct that the Fourth Amendment does not permit. Brief for Petitioner 28-33. These are familiar concerns; they were central to the opinion in Papachristou, and also to the decisions limiting the operation of stop and identify statutes in Kolender and Brown. Petitioner's concerns are met by the requirement that a Terry stop must be justified at its inception and "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified" the initial stop. 392 U. S., at 20.
Under these principles, an officer may not arrest a suspect for failure to identify himself if the request for identification is not reasonably related to the circumstances justifying the stop. The Court noted a similar limitation in Hayes, where it suggested that Terry may permit an officer to determine a suspect's identity by compelling the suspect to submit to fingerprinting only if there is "a reasonable basis for believing that fingerprinting will establish or negate the suspect's connection with that crime.
" 470 U. S. , at 817. It is clear in this case that the request for identification was "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified" the stop. Terry, supra, at 20. The officer's request was a commonsense inquiry, not an effort to obtain an arrest for failure to identify after a Terry stop yielded insufficient evidence. The stop, the request, and the State's requirement of a response did not contravene the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment.