California Man Awarded $60,000 after he was Arrested for Refusing to ID himself

Carlos Miller

Bakersfield cops lied by claiming he was required by law to identify himself because he was a passenger in a car.

A California man who was jailed for 12 hours for refusing to identify himself was awarded a $60,000 settlement earlier this month.

Robert Mitchell was a passenger in a car with three other black males when it was pulled over by Bakersfield police for the dubious reason of having an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror back on March 17, 2017.

Police also said the car's tires were bald and that it "had come to a rest in the turn lane with its wheels touching the dividing line," according to the Bakersfield Californian.

Mitchell, who began recording, refused to identify himself because the cop was unable to articulate if he was suspected of committing crime.

Instead, the cops lied, claiming that because he was a passenger in a vehicle they had pulled over, he therefore was being detained and was required to identify himself.

Mitchell finally did identify himself after the cops threatened to impound his friend's car but he was jailed anyway on a charge of obstruction, which was never officially filed.

The lawsuit, which you can read here, states the cops violated Mitchell's First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

The lawsuit also states that it is not illegal in California to have air fresheners hanging from rear view mirrors and that not only were the tires of the car not bald, it would have been impossible for the cops to notice if they were from their vantage point.

But it's nothing new for the Bakersfield Police Department, according to the lawsuit:

On information and belief, the City, through the Bakersfield Police Department, maintains an unlawful policy, custom, or practice of requiring individuals detained by police to identify themselves and arresting individuals who decline to answer questions about their identity. This unlawful policy, custom, or practice is reinforced by the Bakersfield Police Department’s supervision and, on information and belief, its training.

The arresting officers were Ronnie Jeffries, John Bishop and a sergeant named Sherman whose first name is unknown.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I've been saying for a while now that current tactics aren't working. When our nuclear option is a lawsuit that the bad cops don't pay a penny for no matter how badly they lose, why should they ever change?

I've been doing some research, and there's Title 18, Section 241 of the US Code (conspiracy to violate rights, a felony), the US Supreme Court case United States v. Di Re from 1946 (established the lawfulness of citizen's arrest for violations of federal law), and the twin facts that a citizen's arrest for a felony is lawful in 49 out of 50 states -- and police are not immune to arrest.

They don't care if you whine, if you tell them they're breaking the law, if you sue. It's meaningless to them. Arrest them instead. You dom't even have to lay a finger on them, as the Supreme Court has noted an arrest or detention happens when you become aware you are not free to go, not when you are handcuffed or booked. Just use your words and inform them they are under arrest, and why.

An arrest on the other hand, is both personal and creates a permanent criminal record even if they are never charged. And you never know, it might lead to charges and a conviction. Plus, no part of making a felony arrest precludes suing them for the rights violation later -- after all, police have been able to sue the victims of excessive force and abuse of power in the past. Even being under arrest yourself doesn't preclude making a lawfully binding arrest.

Eye On Government