IAN DEMSKY; firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not a crime merely to refuse to identify yourself to a police officer.
That’s what Olympia attorney Legrand Jones is arguing after his arrest during anti-war demonstrations at the Port of Tacoma last week.
Jones, 38, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of trespassing and obstructing a police officer in Tacoma Municipal Court.
His attorney, William Ferrell, asked Court Commissioner Dennis Ball to toss out the case against Jones, who’s accused of coming onto port property, approaching a fence and then refusing to give officers his ID.
Ferrell said in court that the fence had “No trespassing” signs posted on it, but that the area in front of the fence wasn’t marked.
“Typically, when you see a ‘No trespassing’ sign on a fence, it applies to the area beyond the fence, not some indeterminate area (before) the fence,” Ferrell argued. “With regard to the obstruction, I would call the court’s attention to the fact we don’t have a ‘stop and identify’ statute in the state of Washington. … If police feel they have probable cause to arrest an individual, they can take him into custody and identify him through the normal procedures.”
City prosecutor Keith Echterling countered that there was probable cause to continue the case and that the merits of Ferrell’s arguments would be best dealt with at trial. Ball agreed there was enough evidence for the case to continue.
Echterling declined to comment on the case through a supervisor. Tacoma police officials also declined to comment.
In an interview, Jones said he and two others approached the fence the evening of July 30 to see if they could see the Stryker vehicles that were being unloaded after returning from Iraq.
During the protests, Tacoma police had been issuing trespass warning notices to first-time violators, keeping a list and then making an arrest if the person trespassed again. The two people with Jones were released with warnings.
“I don’t have to show my papers on demand; I don’t live in that kind of world,” Jones said. His law firm produces a pamphlet called “What are my rights?” which includes a section that says you can’t be arrested merely for not giving your name to police.
Ferrell, Jones’ attorney, said he too was asked for identification while conducting an investigation on behalf of his client.
On Sunday, he went to see the site of the arrest, which was near the intersection of East 11th Street and Port of Tacoma Road, and was stopped by port security officers and asked for identification. Legally, he didn’t have to comply, but did so in the interest of expediency, he said.
“My sense was that they would have arrested me if I had not,” Ferrell said.
He said the officers told him there had been had been “complaints of people taking photographs.” Taking photographs in a public place is not illegal, Ferrell noted.
Jones attended his arraignment wearing a gray jumpsuit with the word “Lawyer” emblazoned on the back. He and about half a dozen supporters bound their wrists with black plastic zip ties during the hearing.
Ian Demsky: 253-597-8872
Originally published: August 7th, 2008