Until last year, Tanya Ortega de Chamberlin had a clean record, with no criminal convictions or even an arrest. But her refusal to provide her date of birth or Social Security number to a South Salt Lake police officer changed that.
Although she was not suspected of committing a crime, and eventually provided the requested information, Ortega de Chamberlin was still cited based on her initial resistance.
The obstruction charges against her were later dropped. But Ortega de Chamberlin says that's not good enough - she has filed a lawsuit asking for a declaration that her constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure was violated. She also wants reimbursement of the money she spent fighting the criminal case.
Capt. Chris Snyder said Thursday that the department cannot comment on pending litigation.
The legal action, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, gives this account of the incident:
On Nov. 4 about 12:30 p.m., Ortega de Chamberlin, a photographer who lives in Salt Lake City, was standing on a public sidewalk near 3021 S. Main St. when Officer B. Heddlesten approached her. The officer said she was not suspected of a crime, but demanded the photographer give him her name, date of birth and Social Security number and tell him whether she had a driver license.
Ortega de Chamberlin gave her name but told the officer she was not required by law to provide the other information he requested.
In response to her repeated questions, Heddlesten said he did not think she had committed a crime or was attempting to commit one, according to the suit. However, the officer still insisted that she had to tell him the information; his supervisor, Sgt. Brian Stahle, who arrived at their location, backed him up.
Under threat of arrest, Ortega de Chamberlin finally complied, but was cited for allegedly interfering with or obstructing an officer by giving false information and by refusing to give information. Her suit says she then was put in handcuffs and placed in a police car until the officers changed their minds about taking her to jail and released her.
The charges were dismissed before trial, but Ortega de Chamberlin still has a criminal accusation on her record.