The Opportunity to Provide ''Other Evidence Identity'' to a Police Officer

The defendant in People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal. App. 4th 1174 was a passenger in a vehicle. Officers stopped the car because Monroe's appearance seemed to match that of a homicide suspect believed to be in the area. When an officer walked up to the car he realized that Monroe was not the suspect, but the officer saw evidence of a violation of the open container law. Monroe did not produce written identification when the officer asked him for it. for that reason, the officer took him into custody under the authority of section 40302, subdivision (a). A subsequent search of the defendant turned up rock cocaine, and he was charged and convicted of possession for sale. His motion to suppress pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5 was denied, and he appealed, claiming that section 40302 required the officer to give him an adequate opportunity to provide other evidence of his identity. The Monroe court noted that section 40302 is part of a statutory scheme specifying the circumstances under which an officer either has the option to take a citee before a magistrate, or is required to do so. This scheme presumes that in the vast majority of cases involving minor criminal violations, especially traffic violations, the violator will not be taken into custody. (12 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1184; see also People v. Superior Court (1972) 7 Cal. 3d 186, 199-200, 101 Cal. Rptr. 837, 496 P.2d 1205.) "Given that the general purpose of the Vehicle Code arrest statutes is to avoid custodial arrest of most violators, reserving custody for serious offenders and those who are unlikely to comply with the citation procedure, it is clear the 'satisfactory evidence' of identity standard must be interpreted to give the officer in the field sufficient flexibility to carry out that purpose in a variety of situations." (People v. Monroe, supra, 12 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1185.) The officer retains some discretion to determine what evidence is "satisfactory" within the meaning of section 40302, but that discretion is not unlimited. "Proper interpretation of the phrase 'satisfactory evidence of identity' requires an officer to accept as presumptively satisfactory any reliable documentary evidence of identity which bears the minimum amount of data required by the Vehicle Code licensing and citation statutes. The form of identification must bear a photograph and description of the person, their signature and a current mailing address, and must be current and serially or otherwise numbered. Such documentary evidence is the functional equivalent of a driver's license because it is of equivalent reliability, and because it bears the information necessary to the citation process. When presented with such proof, an officer must accept it as 'satisfactory.'" (12 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1187.) The Monroe court rejected defendant's argument that an officer also is required to accept verifiable oral assertions of identity as presumptively satisfactory. As the court explained, section 40302 requires that the evidence of identity be "presented" for "examination" by the officer. "A reasonable reading of the words implies that the evidence is capable of presentation and examination, acts which are ordinarily associated with tangible rather than oral evidence." (12 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1187.) While an officer is required to accept either a driver's license or its functional equivalent as satisfactory evidence of identity, "lacking that, the decision whether any other evidence of identity is satisfactory should be left to the discretion of the officer in the field." (Id. at p. 1188, 16 Cal. Rptr. 2d 267.)