-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Vesselin Dittrich, 64 and speaks with an accent, is an American citizen and resident of Hoboken, New Jersey. He was sitting on a PATH (Port Authority) train in the Hoboken station looking at a heavily tattooed woman. She objected to his staring and asked him to move to another car. He refused. She threatened to call the police and, overhearing this, the conductor summoned the Port Authority police.
After an officer spoke with the woman, the officer informed Dittrich there would be no charges but requested identification. Dittrich did not want to give it. According to Dittrich, the officer told him he would be charged with obstruction. Dittrich gave his name and address. The officer then asked what country he was from. When he refused to answer claiming the question was irrelevant, the officer insisted, and he refused again. The officer then handcuffed Dittrich and took him to the police station where he was issued a summons.
The summons accuses him of disorderly conduct “by causing public inconvenience and annoyance and refusing to provide pedigree info.”
The implication is that either every member of the public was inconvenienced and annoyed, or the inconvenience and annoyance took place in public instead of in private.
Dittrich was offered a reduction to a municipal ordinance violation if he pleaded guilty, but he refused. Disorderly conduct carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1000 fine. At one hearing, the prosecutor told the judge he would like to see Dittrich spend time behind bars.
According to the ACLU:
Q: Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers?
A: No. You have the constitutional right to remain silent.
In the case of State v. Camillo, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, ruled:
In this appeal, the question presented is whether defendant’s refusal to provide his name, date of birth, and social security number to a state trooper who required the information to prepare an incident report constituted an obstruction of the administration of law pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1a. We conclude that under the facts of this case it did not, and consequently we reverse defendant’s March 24, 2004 conviction of that offense.
Clearly, Dittrich, who is acting as his own lawyer, was arrested for asserting his constitutional rights.