A federal appeals court here has asked a lower court to hold detailed hearings into the authority of D.C. police officers to require a citizen to show them a driver's license when the citizen is not driving a vehicle.
The hearings will center on an incident in December 1978, in which a District man was ordered to produce his driver's license and automobile registration while standing alongside his car, which was parked at a meter on which the time had expired.
The man was found to have two outstanding parking tickets, and was arrested.
After that arrest, a shotgun shell was found in the man's pocket and his car was searched. In the vehicle, police officers found a sawed-off shotgun.
The man was convicted of illegally possessing the shotgun, but his attorneys are contending on appeal that the evidence of the shot gun should not have been used against him at trial because the officers had no right to ask him to produce his identification in the first place.
The U.S. Court of Appeals said in a brief ruling that the case had been presented "as one that requires a decision of considerable scope on fundamental constitutional rights" and that it needed more details about the authority of police officers to demand that citizens present identification.
The government argued that a police officer does have the authority to ask any person whose car is parked at a time-expired meter for his driver's license, and that the officer has the further right to detain the person long enough to see if there are any outstanding warrants against the person.
The appeals court asked U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. to hold further hearings on the polices, instructions or guidelines of the police department concerning such situations. i
Robinson was also asked to determine how long the computer check of a person's driving license takes, and to see what the current police practices are for conducting such a check.
The defendant in the case, Johnathan Garris, of 1811 Gainsville St. SE, was placed on probation after his conviction.