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January 27, 2010 10:58 AM   Subscribe

In New York State, if you are walking down the street on a public sidewalk (not doing anything illegal) and if a police officer asks to see your ID, by law, do you have the right to not show them?
posted by jasonspaceman to Law & Government (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no requirement that one carry an ID on one's person in the US.
posted by dfriedman at 11:05 AM on January 27, 2010


No. The officer may only require someone show ID (or, actually, state your name & address, as you're not required to carry ID unless doing something that specifically requires it, like driving) "when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law" (Link)
posted by brainmouse at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2010


The New York state stop and identify law reads:

"In addition to the authority provided by this article for making an arrest without a warrant, a police officer may stop a person in a public place located within the geographical area of such officer's employment when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct."

So while you may not actually be doing anything illegal, if the officer reasonably suspects that you are, have, or about to, they can stop you and ask you identify yourself. The Supreme Court has held that you must give a name. The police officer can be mistaken, but you must still comply, so long as the mistake is reasonable (e.g., you look an awful lot like a known suspect).
posted by jedicus at 11:10 AM on January 27, 2010


The NY Civil Liberties Union makes a little wallet card called What to Do if You Stopped by the Police which says this... [text bolded for easy grokking]

1. Police may stop and detain you only if there is reasonable suspicion that you committed, are committing or are about to commit a crime.
2. You can ask if you are under arrest or free to leave. If you are arrested, you have a right to know why.
3. Police can't lawfully require that you identify yourself or produce ID if they don't reasonably suspect you of a crime. But use your judgment — refusal could lead to your arrest even if unjustified.
4. If police reasonably suspect you pose a danger to them or others, they may pat down your outer clothing. Don’t physically resist, but say you don’t consent to the search. If an officer asks you to empty your pockets before he pats you down — even if he says you won’t get in trouble — decline to do so. Use the phrase “I do not consent to this search.”
5. Don’t bad-mouth a police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
posted by jessamyn at 11:11 AM on January 27, 2010 [20 favorites]


No. The officer may only require someone show ID (or, actually, state your name & address, as you're not required to carry ID unless doing something that specifically requires it, like driving) "when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law"*

Said code section does not say what you think it does. It positively grants authority, however does not forbid actions and refers to additional code sections which may or may not apply.

OP, is this a hypo or an actual court case.

The above does not represent legal advice. Seek competent legal advice within your jurisdiction.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:13 AM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can ask if you are under arrest or free to leave.

This is the magic question, at least in my experience, which ends many an unjustified shakedown.
posted by johnofjack at 11:15 AM on January 27, 2010


Jessamyn's bolded sections are very good.

There is literally no reason not to show your ID to an officer who requests it, unless you are involved in criminal activity. In that case, cease criminal activity and see a lawyer in your jurisdiction.

Seriously, people, if you have nothing to hide, there is no reason to get into any debate with any officer, even if he or she is being an asshole. Yes sir, no mam is the way to go. You aren't helping yourself. If a cop is doing the wrong thing, let the courts and internal affairs sort it out. It will be a lot harder on the cop and a lot easier on you if you do so.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


From what I can find and see above, the officer needs reasonable suspicion to base this request on, and as dfriedman said, he can't even require you to show him an ID, because you're not required to carry one (unless you're driving, I believe).

Reasonable suspicion is more than a hunch, but less than probable cause, something like an articulable and particularized belief that criminal activity is afoot (Ornelas v. United States).

Of course, some cops (like some people) will abuse their authority to get what they want, and others will wonder why you're so unwilling to cooperate with a "harmless" request, so be careful.
posted by sallybrown at 11:23 AM on January 27, 2010


The Catch-22 here is that a refusal to identify yourself can itself be used as reasonable suspicion.
posted by rhizome at 11:31 AM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Refusal to answer question cannot by itself be reasonable suspicion. However, a police officer can always find reasonable suspicion.
posted by unreasonable at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


People v. DeBour
posted by Pollomacho at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2010


Interesting question. Although jessamyn is close, to best answer your question it needs to be rephrased. The analysis is objective, not subjective (it depends on what the officer's perception should have been based on the facts presented to him, not on whether you were actually doing anything illegal). To expand on that answer a bit, common law rights of inquiry in New York are derived from a Court of Appeals case entitled People v. DeBour. There are 4 basic levels of inquiry, which are as follows:

Level 1: Level one is a request for information. At this level, police officers are essentially allowed to approach individuals and ask questions relating to identity or destination – provided that the officers do not act on whim or caprice and have an articulable reason not necessarily related to criminality for making the approach (please note that although police are allowed to ask for identification at this level, one is not required to provide it).

Level 2: Level two is a common law inquiry. At this level the officer is no longer merely asking for information and indeed, the person approached might reasonably discern from the officer’s questions that he or she is suspected of wrongdoing. This level of encounter must be supported by founded suspicion that criminality is afoot.

Level 3: Level three is the forcible stop and frisk. At this level the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a particular person was involved in a crime before he can forcibly stop and detain that person. Additionally, the officer is authorized to frisk the suspect if he reasonably suspects that he is in danger of physical injury by virtue of the detainee being armed. The term “reasonable suspicion” has been interpreted to mean the “quantum of knowledge sufficient to induce ordinarily prudent and cautious person under circumstances to believe that criminal activity is at hand” (here, as is true at level 4, police can forcibly require identification. It should be noted that their reasonable suspicion/probable cause can be completely incorrect, but as long as a judge deems it was reasonable under the circumstances then the police have acted properly.)

Level 4: Lastly, at level 4, once probable cause exists a police officer may place a person under arrest
posted by Mr. X at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Quote from Debour:

This case raises the fundamental issue of whether or not a police officer, in the absence of any concrete indication of criminality, may approach a private citizen on the street for the purpose of requesting information. We hold that he may. The basis for this inquiry need not rest on any indication of criminal activity on the part of the person of whom the inquiry is made but there must be some articulable reason sufficient to justify the police action which was undertaken.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2010


There is literally no reason not to show your ID to an officer who requests it, unless you are involved in criminal activity. In that case, cease criminal activity and see a lawyer in your jurisdiction.

Seriously, people, if you have nothing to hide.....


Don't talk to the police, even if you're a saint, and have never even jaywalked. Watch these two videos, one by a defense attorney and the other by a police officer, before following Ironmouth's advice.

Part 1
Part 2
IANAL....
posted by dalesd at 1:03 PM on January 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


[comments removed - Folks -- this really needs to go to MetaTalk if you're not talking about whether you legally need to show ID. Please take this discussion there or leave it.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2010


I was stopped by a cop (bicycling through a red light) and was not carrying any ID. They were not happy with this and suspected I had an ID I wasn't showing them, but since I didn't have one, all their attempts to "convince" me to show one failed. They said they wanted to take me down to the station house to "confirm my identity" and I said "OK" but they were just saying that because they thought I'd then produce an ID. Finally they got bored and just let me go.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've known people (both minorities, if that mattered) in Texas who, when asked for an ID under similar circumstances were arrested for "vagrancy," taken to the station and released after a while.

If they want to arrest you, they can and will.
posted by cmoj at 5:04 PM on January 28, 2010


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