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You have the right to remain anonymous?
December 23, 2008 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Does the right to remain silent include the right to not to reveal your name?

If you get arrested, what would happen if you had no ID, and refused to reveal your name or address? Could you be charged with a crime? Could the police hold you until they figure out who you are?
posted by roofus to Law & Government (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
As I understand it, you don't need to provide your name, but, equally, they don't need your name to convict you and throw your ass in jail if they catch you doing something illegal.
posted by Dasein at 3:12 PM on December 23, 2008


Yes, you have the right not to identify yourself.

You'll usually be booked in as John Doe (or whatever alias you give), fingerprinted, and prosecuted anyway.

As a practical matter this rarely happens, because there are immense advantages to defendants in having their identity known, such as citation release (i.e., "field release" without being taken to jail, just a promise that they will show up at court) or bail. A bail bonding company will not work with you if you have refused to reveal your identity, and for most criminal defendants, it is a priority to get out of jail ASAP.
posted by jayder at 3:17 PM on December 23, 2008


Since I'm also curious - (about how it's done in the US):
What about, say, if you had alcohol? If you don't reveal your name & age, could the police just say they're holding you on 'suspicion of underage drinking'? Or something like that?

How do they enforce such standards if you're not required to give your name/age etc?
posted by Elysum at 3:23 PM on December 23, 2008


I assume you're asking about UK law, but for the sake of people reading this thread I want to point out that in the US Hiibel v. Nevada established in 2004 that there is no constitutional right not to identify yourself and/or turn over requested identification during a Terry stop (and so not during an arrest either). Whether refusing to do so is a crime depends on whether there is any state law saying so, but such laws are not unconstitutional where they exist. (IANAL, laymen's interpretation of the verdict.)
posted by enn at 3:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


wikipedia to the rescue: stop-and-identify statutes. The short answer is it varies by state. Everyone should know their state law regarding this.
posted by fritley at 3:27 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you should at least get the right link.

The answer is currently "It depends on what state you are in."

These are known as Stop and Identify laws. For example, in Missouri, police forces have the power to "stop any person abroad whenever there is reasonable ground to suspect that he is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime and demand of him his name, address, business abroad and whither he is going." MO Rev Stat 84-710(2).

The Supreme Court has held that merely identifying yourself is neither self incrimination nor unreasonable search or seizure, so a state law required such is *not* unconstitutional. Unresolved is what that identification requires, however, the Supremes said "As we understand it, the statute does not require a suspect to give the officer a drivers license or any other document. Provided that the suspect either states his name or communicates it to the officer by other means—a choice, we assume, that the suspect may make—the statute is satisfied and no violation occurs." Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 (2004).

It is not yet known if this is an opinion on the particular Nevada law being applied, or a general statement that you only need to tell the police your name, and a law requiring government ID might be unconstitutional.

If you are *driving*, you are effectively required to produce identification if asked, because you're required to have your license with you when you drive, and are required to produce that license when asked by police. This is not a violation of right, because there's no right to drive.
posted by eriko at 3:36 PM on December 23, 2008


Yes, you have the right not to identify yourself.

This is absolutely not true. There is no such "right" legal or otherwise.

It does vary by state, but the police can and do have legal precedent to ask your name and place of residence during the course of a "terry stop" and expect a response by a reasonable person. The courts have decided time and again that this is not in anyway infringing on any right.

You can refuse to identify yourself, and they can and will take you to jail. Or, maybe they call you and asshole and let you go... it depends on the situation.

Does this happen in practice? If it does we don't hear about it often. Mostly police don't want to deal with assholes, but if they have probable cause to stop you in the first place, whether you give your name at that point has little to do with what happens next.

The real legal question, the one addressed by the 2004 Nevada case (I think) was if you have to show id. In short, if you're operating a vehicle, yes, if you're walking down the street, no.

The ACLU advises citizens stopped in a terry stop to provide name and address, but no other information. Cops often want your life story, where you work, what's your social security number, where you're going, where you're coming from... you only have to give your name and residence, not anything else. (Again, if you're driving, you have to produce a state license.)
posted by wfrgms at 3:43 PM on December 23, 2008


This is absolutely not true. There is no such "right" legal or otherwise.

Yeah, I realize now I was wrong. I believed that the position of one of the dissenters in that Nevada case (Breyer, I think) was the law. In the state where I practice, there is no statute requiring one to identify oneself, so the issue raised in the Nevada case doesn't come up.
posted by jayder at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2008


I thought that, maybe post-9/11 or post-Patriot Act, one, at least in New York, is required to have identification on them at all times and one can be stopped and asked to furnish identification at any time. I have no proof to back this up, just hearsay.
posted by thebazilist at 5:04 PM on December 23, 2008


If you are driving- yes, you have to identify yourself.

If you are on public transport- they have the right to not serve you if you refuse to show ID.

If you are on the public way and the officer has reasonable suspicion (state laws may vary, etc), yes, you have to ID.

As others said, your identity is not privacy.
posted by gjc at 5:26 PM on December 23, 2008


N-thing "varies by state."

In Vermont:

If you are a suspect in a crime and you refuse to identify yourself or the law enforcement officer is not satisfied with the information you gave him (you gave him a false name) you can be promptly arrested and lodged (jail).

If you are driving a vehicle and are stopped by the police, you HAVE to provide your license or name, date of birth, and address.

If they ask for your social security number, it's a good idea to just give it to them because it will help prove that you are who you say you are.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 12:11 AM on December 24, 2008


If you are a suspect in a crime and you refuse to identify yourself or the law enforcement officer is not satisfied with the information you gave him (you gave him a false name) you can be promptly arrested and lodged (jail).

GAH!

If you are a suspect in a crime and you refuse to identify yourself satisfactorily to the officer, you WILL be promptly arrested and lodged.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 12:16 AM on December 24, 2008


Also remember that, not revealing your identity and refusing to speak will very likely trigger some form of the "suspect was resisting arrest" response in the officers.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:06 AM on December 24, 2008


If they ask for your social security number, it's a good idea to just give it to them because it will help prove that you are who you say you are.
It's often much more convenient to give police what they want. That doesn't mean you should.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


This from my brother the cop:

"You're an absolute moron asking to be arrested if you pull the 'I dont have to give you...' crap. If you do, you better be a lawyer or a really good criminal because I can have you held for 72 hours, printed and investigated, just making up reasons for detention as I go along while I figure out why you've been so uncooperative. Just give the officer your info - it's much simpler that way."
posted by elendil71 at 11:49 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your brother the cop makes up reasons for detention as he goes along?
posted by apetpsychic at 6:39 AM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


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