Ana del Rocío, state director of Oregon's Color PAC and David Douglas school board member, was arrested this past Tuesday afternoon after being stopped for TriMet fare evasion. The routine fare check quickly escalated and ended with del Rocío spending six hours in Multnomah county jail.
Del Rocío was headed to a meeting at her downtown office when she exited the eastbound blue line Max train at the Old Town Chinatown stop around 1:30 pm. When she stepped onto the platform, a group of TriMet and Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers were waiting and approached her to verify if she had a valid fare. A police report filed by PPB officer West Helfrich says del Rocío activated a digital pass on her phone before stepping off the train, but Del Rocío says she had left her paid annual TriMet pass at home and "was willing to take the citation and own that."
The TriMet officer who approached her, however, began to ask for further identification. "I didn't feel safe enough to give more than my name and date of birth which is all they legally need," del Rocío says. "I was scared." While requesting further ID isn't unheard of when issuing citations, people aren't required by law to comply.
Under ORS Chapter 153, fare evasion is a violation that subjects those caught without valid fare to a $175 fine. Although the TriMet Board of Directors approved a tiered penalty system for adult fare evasions at a meeting on February 28, 2018, those provisions won't take effect until later this summer. TriMet typically issues fines for first and second offenses.
Del Rocío says that as she interacted with the TriMet officer, several nearby PPB officers surrounded her with "increased aggression" and asked for her address, social security number, and passport. She refused.
According the ACLU of Oregon, "It is not illegal in Oregon to refuse to identify yourself, but police may detain you until they establish your identity. You can be charged with a crime if you provide false identification information." Del Rocío was arrested and charged with the crimes of Theft III of Services and Furnishing False Information to the Police, but at a preliminary hearing the next day, the theft of services charge was dropped.
"I said my name was Ana because that's my name. I just didn't connect the dots," del Rocío tells the Mercury about the false identity charge. Although she has gone by Ana del Rocío Valderrama since childhood, her legal name is Rosa Valderrama. PPB maintains she intentionally misinformed officers and the district attorney will still pursue the false information charge, a class A misdemeanor.
"It's a very Latino thing to have a legal name that's different from the name you go by," del Rocío says. "Ana, the name that my parents had agreed to, was changed unilaterally by my father when I was born. I didn't know this until high school and I couldn't get it changed as a minor because we needed to have both parents' permission. My dad was [gone.] And as an adult, it's really expensive to change your name."
When asked for comment via email, PPB spokesman Sergeant Chris Burley replied, "When an officer issues a citation it is important the officer verify the person's name so the legal document is accurate. In this case it appears the officer attempted to verify the Ms. Valderama's [sic] name and provide multiple admonishments about providing false information prior to taking Ms. Valderama into custody."
It should be noted that del Rocío's release and police report were entered with her legal last name misspelled. Both documents used an incorrect spelling of "Valderama" with one 'R' instead of two, as referenced by Sgt. Burley. Her case has since been updated to reflect the correct spelling.
"The DAs should understand that names and identity can be fluid throughout a person's life," says Juan C. Chavez, a civil rights lawyer who is not representing del Rocío. "Not everyone can afford to or has the time to change their name through the court system. We shouldn't criminalize self-identity."
Del Rocío's attorney John Schlosser says cases like Ana's are tricky. "There's a mental state attached to the crime—you have to intentionally be providing a false name. In Ana's case, she has more of a defense in that she's publicly known and has gone her life [using the name] Ana. But it can get very confusing, even for the police or court."
For people who have two surnames, Schlosser says it can get even more unclear. "An officer theoretically can charge you if you give your name as Hernandez Garcia but the court or another agency has you in as Garcia Hernandez. It's a slippery slope when it comes to Hispanic names [because other people] don't have a real good grasp of how it works. And when you're in a situation where officers are challenged or people are asserting their rights, they tend to take [charges] further in those situations."
Del Rocío's next court date is scheduled for Thursday, April 5.