A federal court has sided with Roland Edger, an Alabama man who says he was wrongfully arrested after he declined to give police officers his driver's license in 2019. While a lower court had granted qualified immunity to the officers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned that decision, ruling that the officers clearly violated Edger's Fourth Amendment rights and that Edger's suit against them may go forward.
Despite Edger repeatedly offering his driver's license upon being handcuffed, the officers arrested him anyway and charged him with "obstructing governmental operations" for failing to provide his ID. The charges were later dropped, Reason reports.
Edger filed a lawsuit, claiming that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
The officers argued that Edger had violated an Alabama law that requires individuals to tell officers their name, address, and "an explanation of his actions," if there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime. However, the statute does not compel individuals to show a diver's license or ID card.
"The Alabama statute is clear. It lists only three things that the police may ask about," wrote Judge Charles R. Wilson in the court's unanimous opinion. "This is not an issue of 'magic words' that must be uttered. There is a difference between asking for specific information: 'What is your name? Where do you live?' and demanding a physical license or ID. The information contained in a driver's license goes beyond the information required to be revealed under" Alabama state law.