Commuting By Bus In Denver? Papers, Please.
Next Stop: Big Brother Meet Deborah Davis. She's a 50 year-old mother of four who lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Her kids are all grown-up: her middle son is a soldier fighting in Iraq. She leads an ordinary, middle class life. You probably never would have heard of Deb Davis if it weren't for her belief in the U.S. Constitution.
Federal Public Transportation Pass This is not America. When honest, law-abiding citizens can't commute to work on a city bus without a demand for their 'papers', something is very, very wrong. One morning in late September 2005, Deb was riding the public bus to work. She was minding her own business, reading a book and planning for work, when a security guard got on this public bus and demanded that every passenger show their ID. Deb, having done nothing wrong, declined. The guard called in federal cops, and she was arrested and charged with federal criminal misdemeanors after refusing to show ID on demand. On the 9th of December 2005, Deborah Davis will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in a case that will determine whether Deb and the rest of us live in a free society, or in a country where we must show "papers" whenever a cop demands them.
Commuting By Bus In Denver? Papers, Please. DEB DAVIS LIKES to commute to work by public bus. She uses the time to read, crochet or pay bills. It's her quiet time. What with the high price of gas, she saves money, too: a week's worth of gas money gets her a month's worth of bus rides.
Deborah Davis and Son Deborah Davis defends freedom at home while her son serves abroad in Iraq. The bus she rides crosses the property of the Denver Federal Center, a collection of government offices such as the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and part of the National Archives. The Denver Federal Center is not a high security area: it's not Area 51 or NORAD. On her first day commuting to work by bus, the bus stopped at the gates of the Denver Federal Center. A security guard got on and demanded that all of the passengers on this public bus produce ID. She was surprised by the demand of the man in uniform, but she complied: it would have meant a walk of several miles if she hadn't. Her ID was not taken and compared to any "no-ride" list. The guard barely glanced at it. When she got home, what had happened on the bus began to bother her. 'This is not a police state or communist Russia', she thought. From her 8th grade Civics class she knew there is no law requiring her, as an American citizen, to carry ID or any papers, much less show them to anyone on a public bus. She decided she would no longer show her ID on the bus.
The Compliance Test On Monday, September 26th 2005, Deb Davis headed off to work on the route 100 bus. When the bus got to the gates of the Denver Federal Center, a guard got on and asked her if she had an ID. She answered in the affirmative. He asked if he could see it. She said no.
Welcome. Visitors Welcome (to be arrested). The entrance to the Denver Federal Center. When the guard asked why she wouldn't show her ID, Deb told him that she didn't have to do so. The guard then ordered her off the bus. Deb refused, stating she was riding a public bus and just trying to get to work. The guard then went to call his supervisor, and returned shortly with a federal policeman. The federal cop then demanded her ID. Deb politely explained once again that she would not show her ID, and she was simply commuting to work. He left, returning shortly thereafter with a second policeman in tow.
The Second Compliance Test This second cop asked the same question and got the same answer: no showing of ID, no getting off the bus. The cop was also annoyed with the fact that she was on the phone with a friend and didn't feel like hanging up, even when he 'ordered' her to do so. The second cop said everyone had to show ID any time they were asked by the police, adding that if she were in a Wal-Mart and was asked by the police for ID, that she would have to show it there, too. She explained that she didn't have to show him or any other policeman my ID on a public bus or in a Wal-Mart. She told him she was simply trying to go to work.
The Arrest Suddenly, the second policeman shouted "Grab her!" and he grabbed the cell phone from her and threw it to the back of the bus. With each of the policemen wrenching one of her arms behind her back, she was jerked out of her seat, the contents of her purse and book bag flying everywhere. The cops shoved her out of the bus, handcuffed her, threw her into the back seat of a police cruiser, and drove her to a police station inside the confines of the Denver Federal Center. Once inside, she was taken down a hall and told to sit in a chair, still handcuffed, while one of the policemen went through her purse, now retrieved from the bus. The two policemen sat in front of their computers, typing and conferring, trying to figure out what they should charge her with. Eventually, they wrote up several tickets, took her outside and removed the handcuffs, returned her belongings, and pointed her toward the bus stop. She was told that if she ever entered the Denver Federal Center again, she would go to jail. She hasn't commuted by public bus since that day.
The Legal Case Deborah Davis' case is about one thing: the right to travel. The reason why she was charged has absolutely nothing to do with security. The guard at the Denver Federal Center wasn't checking IDs against a 'no ride' list: there is no such thing. The demands made against Deb Davis were nothing more than a compliance test, a demand that she kowtow to officialdom. And lest we forget, having to show your ID is a search without a warrant. By 'Welcome', they mean 'Show us your papers'. Yet more signs at a Denver Federal Center entrance. The significance of Deb's case was readily apparent to the < http://www.aclu-co.org/>American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, who immediately arranged free legal representation. The first-rate legal team of ACLU volunteers Norman Mueller and Gail Johnson attorneys from the prominent Colorado criminal defense firm of < http://www.hmflaw.com>Haddon, Morgan, Mueller, Jordan, Mackey & Foreman, P.C. are mounting a vigorous defense on Deborah Davis' behalf. Deborah Davis responded to this compliance test in a way that would have made the Founding Fathers proud. She is being prosecuted for no reason other than being 'uppity' in the face of authority. When Deb is arraigned in U.S. District Court on the 9th of December, she will most likely be charged with the following federal criminal misdemeanors: 41 CFR § 102-74.375 (Admission to Property) and 41 CFR § 102-74.385 (Conformity to Official Signs and Directions). Through these charges, it appears that the Feds are claiming that people were on notice that they had to show ID. Nowhere is this evident, unless 'Public Welcome' flags are bureaucratese for 'Papers, please'. In addition, Deb wasn't even visiting the Denver Federal Center. That the public bus transits the facility isn't her fault. If the Center really is Denver's answer to Area 51, then public buses should be driving around not through the Center.
What's Wrong With Showing ID?
"There are good people with bad papers; and bad people with good papers." - Bertold Brecht
What does an ID, any ID, do for security? The honest answer is 'not much'. If anyting, relying on ID for security purposes actually makes things worse. Showing ID only affects honest people. If you're dishonest, you can obtain false documents or steal the identity of an honest person. If a 19 year-old college student can get a fake ID to drink, why couldn't a bad person get one, too? And no matter how sophisticated the security embedded into the ID, wouldn't a well-financed terrorist be able to falsify that, too? The answer to both questions is obviously 'yes'. Honest people, on the other hand, go to Pro-Life rallies. Honest people attend gun shows. Honest people protest the President of the United States. Honest people fly to political conventions. Honest people also commute by public bus to work. What if those with the power to put people on a 'no ride' list decided that they didn't like the reason for which you wanted to travel? The honest people wouldn't be going anywhere. Bad people, besides using fake IDs and stolen identities, can also make the system of checking IDs work in their favor. The Carnival Booth effect, as described by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, means that terrorists can probe an ID security system by sending a number of people on innocent trips through the system and noting who is flagged for extra searches and who isn't. They then send only those who the system doesn't flag on terrorist missions. Still, some Americans think that "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Were the Founding Fathers criminals trying to protect themselves when they inserted the 4th and 5th amendments into the Bill of Rights? After all, nobody who hasn't done anything wrong needs to worry about being searched or being forced to testify against himself. Over the years, Americans have become accustomed to showing ID in any number of circumstances. Few have asked the question, 'Why?'. The Department of Homeland Security has attempted to institute programs predicated on the use of ID to improve security. The fact of the matter is that demands for ID do nothing for security while making honest Americans less free.
Legal Documents Deborah Davis: Defendant Other legal documents from Deb's case will be added to this page as they become available. Deb's personal information has been redacted.
Gail Johnson, a volunteer ACLU lawyer and respected criminal defense attorney from the law offices of http://www.hmflaw.com Haddon, Morgan, Mueller, Jordan, Mackey & Foreman, P.C., is defending Deb's right to travel freely in her own country.
Admissions to property citation issued by arresting officer:
http://www.papersplease.org/davis/_dl/Admission_Violation.pdf U.S. District Court Violation Notice 26 September 2005 (128 KB pdf)
Conforming with signs and instructions citation issued by arresting officer:
U.S . District Court Violation Notice
26 September 2005 (128 KB pdf)
Statement of the arresting Homeland Security Department law enforcement officer:
Department of Homeland Security Offense/Incident Report
26 September 2005 (46 KB pdf)
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