Do I have to show my ID to police?

Border Patrol agents reads the Miranda rights to a Mexican national arrested for transporting drugs.Citizen-police encounters often begin with an officer asking for identification. People generally provide this information without questioning the legitimacy of the request. In circumstances where a citizen does question the officer, a typical response is generally, “because I’m a police officer,” or “because I said so.”

But what if the officer is wrong? What if he is not entitled to your identification?

Two things will generally determine if the officer is legally entitled to know who you are. First, do you live in a compulsory identification state? If so, then you must provide your identification upon request. Currently there are approximately 24 states that have so-called “stop and identify” laws that require citizens to provide their identification when asked by police.

Oklahoma is not a “stop and identify” state. In other words, you are not required to reveal your identity to anyone– including a police officer– merely to satisfy their curiosity.

The second issue is far more common. If you are suspected of committing a crime, the police may lawfully require that you reveal your identity. How do you know if you are suspected of committing a crime? Ask the police officer if you are free to go.  If so, then you can also maintain your privacy.

If you satisfy the two criteria above, e.g. (1) you do not live in a compulsory identification state; and (2) you are not suspected of committing a crime, then you may lawfully decline to reveal your identity to the police.

This does not mean that the police will not arrest you; some less professional or untrained officers will view the assertion of your constitutional rights as a challenge to their authority and decide to arrest you anyway. If this happens, you have a valid claim against the officer for violating your rights as secured by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

If you have questions about stop and identify laws or the Fourth Amendment, contact the car accident lawyers at Bryan & Terrill, 918-935-2777.