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What can an officer do to you if you do not provide identification
April 4, 2006 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Hypothetical Jail Filter: What happens if you refuse to give identification to an officer after commiting a petty misdemeanor?

For example. Let's say you get caught smoking marijuana or stealing a bike or whatever outdoors. You don't have any forms of identification on you. If you refuse to provide your information, what can they do to you? How long can they hold you? Are you required to coroborate?

Just curious...
posted by stratastar to Law & Government (22 answers total)
 
ACLU Know Your Rights
posted by badger_flammable at 1:03 PM on April 4, 2006


In principle, it depends on what the state law says. In practice, if an officer suspects a crime, or you merely annoy the officer in some way (by, say, not cooperating with a request for ID...), expect to be handcuffed.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:04 PM on April 4, 2006


See: Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, Humbolt County

In sum, Hiibel holds a state may criminalize a refusal to produce identification as long as the detention is predicated on a valid Terry stop (i.e., reasonable suspicion). In other words, police officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment when they arrest an individual after the individual refuses to provide identification during a lawful detention pursuant to their state's stop-and-identify statute.

Thus I assume the actual punishment varies from state to state.
posted by rooftop secrets at 1:07 PM on April 4, 2006


Iowa, a.. oh shit.. a decade whimper ago I was apprehended by a fucking pig an officer of the law, searched, handcuffed, and arrested for possession.

Never asked for my ID.

At the station, after surrendering my possessions, a city police officer confronted me with three sets of ID: one legitimate BC driver's license, one obviously fake Ontario "ID," and one valid BC driver's license that wasn't mine.

I got to keep my DL and fake ID but the DL that belonged to someone else was confiscated.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:10 PM on April 4, 2006


To put it another way, you don't have to carry physical ID, but (in most states) you must identify yourself correctly when asked by a LEO.
posted by unixrat at 1:25 PM on April 4, 2006


I think the original question is, how do the police know who you are if you refuse to provide ID, or any information at all? How can they go forward with anything if they do not know your identity? Right?
posted by Brian James at 1:26 PM on April 4, 2006


...how do the police know who you are if you refuse to provide ID, or any information at all? How can they go forward with anything if they do not know your identity? Right?

In most states, given prob cause on another issue combined with your red-flag refusal to identify yourself will get your detained.

You'll have at least a night or so in the Grey Bar Hotel to mull over your decision not to cooperate while they ask your friends who you are. :)
posted by unixrat at 1:32 PM on April 4, 2006


If the question is whether you can simply 'wait them out' if you have no ID on you and are willing to spend some time in lockup, I highly doubt the cops will just 'give up' at some point and release you if they are unable to identify you. I imagine that unless you were entirely socially removed they wouldn't have much trouble ascertaining your identity, and if by some chance they couldn't, they would have to release you anyway (eventually) if you did nothing but refuse to show ID (the key point being you did nothing else punishable by law. However, if that were the case why wouldn't you just show them ID in the first place?)
posted by rooftop secrets at 1:38 PM on April 4, 2006


People get locked up all the time who have no identification card, give the police false names, and are released after a few days. The fact that you didn't produce a valid ID card and gave the authorities a false name does not mean you will be held indefinitely.

That's not to say you didn't commit a crime by giving the false name.
posted by jayder at 1:45 PM on April 4, 2006


unixrat wrote...
To put it another way, you don't have to carry physical ID, but (in most states) you must identify yourself correctly when asked by a LEO.

That is incorrect.

The LEO needs to have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime in order to arrest your for failing to provide your name. An LEO can not randomly walk up to you on the street and demand your name or anything else.

As per the ACLU link, even if the cop is in the wrong you'll do better to cooperate with their request while noting everything you can about the situation, getting witnesses, etc., and filing a formal complaint.

Even if you are arrested in the middle of a crime, you can still assert your right to silence if you believe that your name itself will be incriminating. I wouldn't suggest doing it just to be a pain in the ass though, as the courts may take a dim view of that.
posted by tkolar at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2006


Note not giving a name or identification will not prevent arrest or prosecution, you can be arrested tried and prosecuted as a John Doe. But now you no one is going to allow you bail without a valid identity.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:58 PM on April 4, 2006


tkolar, you're wrong. If the state has a statute stating that you must identify yourself, the police do not need reasonable suspicion. Such statutes were upheld as consitutional in Hiibel.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:04 PM on April 4, 2006


I remember one time when a LEO entered my home about six years ago. He knocked on the door, and we frequently just yelled 'come in!' because it was a pretty come-and-go place. The officer accused us of having recently been uptown spraypainting (which hadn't even happened, let alone by us) and my cousin had no identification and would not identify himself. In this case, he asked me, because he knew it was my cousin, but I refused to name him, and my cousin sternly said 'Arrest me, my name is John Doe,' though I'm removed some expletives. The officer became angry, said he'd be back to make an arrest, but never did. Keep in mind this was in a small town, and this officer had a reputation for being somewhat quirky. I don't think he would be a good example of the normal police procedure, but an exception that could happen.

The only explanation for his actions that I can think of is that he was misinterpreting some rumor about some vandalism in the past and wanted to make an example or act on a grudge. Unsure.
posted by cellphone at 2:58 PM on April 4, 2006


Also, this was in Iowa.
posted by cellphone at 2:58 PM on April 4, 2006


tkolar, you're wrong. If the state has a statute stating that you must identify yourself, the police do not need reasonable suspicion. Such statutes were upheld as consitutional in Hiibel.

Ummm.... Hiibel was a Terry stop (i.e. reasonable suspicion)

Further, having just reread Hiibel, it is very clear in referencing:
  1. Older "Stop and Identify" vagrancy laws that were ruled unconstitutional because they "permitted police officers to exercise unfettered discretion".
  2. Cases that outright declare that requiring ID without reasonable suspicion violates the Fourth Amendment.
  3. The fact that it itself solely applied to Terry stops.
Seriously, Brown v. Texas is very clear about this.
posted by tkolar at 3:30 PM on April 4, 2006


An attorney I worked with once tested his civil liberties. He was caught jaywalking. The cop asked for his identification. He refused ("there's no such thing as a walking license"). The cop then explained that he would have to take my colleague "downtown" to verify his identity. My colleague quickly produced his license.
posted by GarageWine at 3:34 PM on April 4, 2006


I was stopped while skateboarding a few years ago by a cop - he actually pulled me over (I was ridding a long board, down hill in the street.)

He was a typical small town twit - just trying to find someone to respect his authority. His excuse was that he wanted to make sure I wasn't drunk (it was 7pm on a weekday.) (Background: I knew I was skateboarding in a "safe" area - outside of downtown proper and thus not breaking any laws.) In reality I think I just looked funny on my long board and this guy wanted a closer look.

Thing is I didn't have my ID - and I didn't know my rights so I basically spilled my guts to this guy, telling him where I worked, where I lived, my social security number, etc etc.
Basically he wrote down my info and radioed it in to see if I had any outstanding warrants - keep in mind I hadn't broke any law.

Looking back I get really mad about the way I was treated... but that's small town pigs for you.

I did a lot of research after this and basically figured out that during these "terry stops" you only have to give your name and address. The law is grey on whether you have to produce ID or not - you certainly don't have to tell your life story like I did.

Much of what the cops can do depend on the circumstances of the terry stop - if there has just been a crime committed nearby the cops can definitely grab you, cuff you and sit you on the curb until they figure out you had nothing to do with it. In milder circumstances the cops can't detain you unless there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. My experience is both anecdotal and beyond the pale - certainly not typical (at least I hope.)

Thanks to the ACLU in the future I know to give my name, address and nothing else. The cops are professionals, they know the law and they can take it from there.

[My experience happened in Greenville, SC in 2003 - it's a great small town, but it's crawling with good'ole boy cops.]
posted by wfrgms at 4:09 PM on April 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


...I figured out that during these "terry stops"...

What you describe sure doesn't sound like a legitimate Terry stop to me. Unless you were weaving back and forth or falling off your board or something.

However, cooperating with the officer is almost always a good idea. Most cops have limited knowledge of constitutional law, and about zero interest in arguing about it with you. The place to seek redress is in court.
posted by tkolar at 4:26 PM on April 4, 2006


Well, in the UK what usually happens is you get hurled into the back of the paddy wagon and given a damned good kicking.
posted by Decani at 4:57 PM on April 4, 2006


Well, in the UK what usually happens is you get hurled into the back of the paddy wagon and given a damned good kicking.

Wow. If that's standard practice for refusing to cough up ID, ya'll should consider a small revolution. We (America) would be happy to ship you arms, if you'd like.
posted by Netzapper at 5:26 PM on April 4, 2006


Well, in the UK what usually happens is you get hurled into the back of the paddy wagon and given a damned good kicking.

I've been to this "UK," it's located in East Atlanta, Georgia.
posted by clunkyrobot at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2006


Okay, I confess. I was exaggerrating for mildly humorous effect. You have to at least knock the copper's hat off to get that treatment.
posted by Decani at 4:28 PM on April 5, 2006


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