updated 6/21/2004 10:47:28 AM ET 2004-06-21T14:47:28

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that people do not have a constitutional right to refuse to tell police their names.

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The 5-4 decision frees the government to arrest and punish people who won’t cooperate by revealing their identity.

The decision was a defeat for privacy rights advocates who argued that the government could use this power to force people who have done nothing wrong to submit to fingerprinting or divulge more personal information.

Police, meanwhile, had argued that identification requests are a routine part of detective work, including efforts to get information about terrorists.

The justices upheld a Nevada cattle rancher’s misdemeanor conviction. He was arrested after he told a deputy that he didn’t have to reveal his name or show an ID during an encounter on a rural road in 2000.

Larry “Dudley” Hiibel was prosecuted, based on his silence and fined $250. The Nevada Supreme Court sided with police on a 4-3 vote last year.

What's in a name?
Justices agreed in a unique ruling that addresses just what’s in a name.

The ruling was a follow up to a 1968 decision that said police may briefly detain someone on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, without the stronger standard of probable cause, to get more information. Justices said that during such brief detentions, known as Terry stops after the 1968 ruling, people must answer questions about their identities.

Justices had been asked to rule that forcing someone to give police their name violated a person’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that that it violated neither.

“Obtaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests,” Kennedy wrote.

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