"I would prefer not to produce my ID, thanks."
December 9, 2010 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Do you have personal experience or anecdotes of what happened when a police officer requested an ID from you and you refused?

This is a related question to the one crunchland asked on November 27. My question is: have you ever declined to show ID when a law enforcement officer has requested you to produce it? I am not asking about situations where a driver’s license or something similar is pretty much required to perform an activity (that is, I’m not asking about being pulled over when driving and asked for a DL, nor am I asking about a TSA ID request at the beginning of airport passenger screening); rather, I am asking about a situation where you’re approached by a LEO walking around in public, or in a private business, who wants to see your ID. Have you ever declined the request?
posted by Mr. Justice to Law & Government (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, because I didn't have ID on me when I was a passenger in a car that was pulled over. The officer (an Alaska State Trooper) gave me a hard time and asked a lot of questions about why I didn't have ID, what was I doing in the state, etc. but otherwise did nothing. I was surprised that he wanted to see my ID as I was the passenger. In that instance the driver was not given a ticket or a warning (unsubstantiated claim of reckless driving that had been called in, totally mystifying as we were driving fairly slowly and minding our own business).

Alaska State Troopers apparently always ask for passenger IDs, which is a practice I disagree with. On another occasion we were pulled over for an expired registration because someone forgot to put the new sticker on (ahem). I was again a passenger, and again asked for my ID. I didn't have the presence of mind to refuse, and got an earful about my out-of-state ID (I hadn't been present in the state long enough to require an Alaska ID). The Trooper also ran it for warrants.

I have absolutely nothing to hide, so I didn't really care at the time, but in retrospect it really bothered me that he was demanding information I was not legally obligated to provide and fishing around for trouble. I asked a lawyer about it, and she said to always comply because it would result in a world of hurt if I didn't. She does happen to be my mother, so I guess take that with a grain of salt.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:43 PM on December 9, 2010

I have always handed mine over without much thought. Here is what the busted video says.

I let them know who I am. That seems fair, I seem to find myself in sketchy situations that look bad. I like to go Geocaching at night with other friends my age. Looking through bushes at 3am with flashlights apparently looks bad from a patrol car.

I do not talk with the police, but I have my own guide lines for what I am willing to do for them.
I will allow them to run my ID
I will follow any directions that might put myself or them at risk if I do not follow them.
I will be polite at all times (Yes sir, No sir)
I will not answer any questions.

Anyone notice how many lawyers vs. Police are on here?
posted by Felex at 12:17 AM on December 10, 2010

I was crossing the US-Mexico border in a taxi cab, as a passenger, and didn't have any ID on me (yes, I had been drinking). On the way back – that same night – to the United States, I told the border agents that I did not have an ID on me. They asked me what my citizenship was, then waved me through. I'm a very small non-threatening white woman. This happened six years ago.
posted by halogen at 12:27 AM on December 10, 2010

I was with a friend in Germany who was pulled aside while walking down the street and asked for ID. He is South American and his skin is browner than that of most Germans, so he suspected he was being racially profiled and refused to show his ID. (German police ARE actually allowed to request ID from anyone anytime, however.)

The policeman asked for his name and address and called back to the department, where they looked him up in some sort of database. Unfortunately the policeman spelled the name wrong over the radio and when my friend tried to tell him so, it turned into a bit of an altercation. Long story short, he got arrested and spent the night in jail.
posted by lollusc at 12:58 AM on December 10, 2010

In the entire Schengen-Zone you need to be able to provide authorities with proof of who you are. If you don't carry it with you when police stops you, this may significantly disrupt your day.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:45 AM on December 10, 2010

Can't speak for the US, but you can't be forced to produce ID in my own country, though the laws may be very different.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 4:21 AM on December 10, 2010

In Canada, if the police have a duty to try to identify you, you may or may not have to provide ID. The law on this is unsettled because the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that you must provide ID, but that was decades ago, and provincial courts of appeal have since ruled the other way--and the SCC has refused to hear appeals on it.
posted by smorange at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2010

""Reasonable suspicion" is, of course, about as vague as it gets. "

Reasonable suspicion is NOT vague in the US; and it's important to note that refusing to produce ID (in most situations) does NOT constitute reasonable suspicion. (Refusing to cooperate with a bag-check at a store does not constitution reasonable suspicion for shoplifting, while we're on the topic.) Now, everyday Joes and Janes may not be familiar with the ins and outs of what constitutes reasonable suspicion for the huge variety of situations in which it may apply, but it isn't vague in the law.

It IS usually easier to produce ID. I'm a lawyer, and I usually do; I only refuse when I object to the specific situation or policy. (If I were wandering the mall doing nothing in particular and ID was demanded? Hell. No.) But I don't really get asked for ID that often! But I have refused, and nothing really happened.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Canadian here. I haven't ever refused but I was stopped a few times (in my 20s) and when I enquired why I was being stopped while walking down the street; each time the answer is, "there's been a report of a crime and you fit the description". So it's pretty easy for a cop to justify stopping anyone at any time.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2010

US specific: When I was younger, I had a bevy of run-ins with law enforcement and no ID. They always have questions when you walk around at 2 in the morning wearing all black. Once, when I was leaving my house at an ungodly hour, my neighbors called the cops and said there was a prowler. That encounter involved having a gun pointed at me, which was not very pleasant.

Anyway, they just asked for ID, after which I told them I didn't have an ID. Then they asked my name and why the hell I was wandering around at 2 in the morning, I told them a semi-believable story and the encounters were over.

Once, before I had a driver's license, I was driving a car and had a run-in with the police. He asked for my license, and I responded "I don't have one." Again, there were questions about who I was, this time including an SSN, and a ticket written for driving without a license. The officer was kind enough not to impound the car, so I drove home a few minutes after he left. I never did figure out why he stopped me in the first place.

I can't say I've ever declined to show ID when I've had it, but that's because since I got a photo ID, my only encounters with the police where they asked to see my ID were traffic stops.
posted by wierdo at 7:22 AM on December 10, 2010

Ah, speaking of travel in the Schengen-Zone:

When I was an exchange student in Germany I took a train to Copenhagen to visit some friends. It was a sort of on-the-fly decision, and I was going to stop by Berlin on the way back, so for whatever reason I didn't take my passport. It's the EU, I though it would be cool.

So I take the night train to Copenhagen, and I get a top bunk in a sleeper car. So I'm sleeping pretty nicely, then about four hours in, the Danish border control starts waking everyone up for I.D. They get to my room, bang on the door a lot, and I wait for anyone beneath me to open the door, so I don't have to get all the way out of bed. Nobody else gets up, so they shine a flashlight right in my eyes and tell me I'm the only one in the room. So I just lazily open the door from up there.

The officer asked me for identification. I handed them my American driver's license. The officer handed it back and asked me for my passport. I told him I didn't have one, and said something groggily about travel in EU, pancakes, or something. He gave me a lecture on needing a passport, but it sounded like he was concerned for me and not being a jerk. Ultimately he bought that I was in fact an exchange student and curtly moved on. So that turned out well.

I settled back down to go to sleep. Then I heard a rustling sound beneath me, while supposedly alone in the room. I peered over the side of the top bunk. At the same instant, a Chinese guy about my age peered out from under the bottom bunk. We make momentary, inscrutable eye contact.

He climbed out from under there and brushed himself off. Then he opened the door, looked both ways, and snuck down the hallway.

I saw him later when I disembarked, coolly standing on the platform, smoking a cigarette.

Denmark, if you're reading this, I think China is spying on you.
posted by edguardo at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2010 [10 favorites]

Mod note: comments removed - question is not a legal question, it's an anecdotal one, please keep off-topic legal analysis to a minimum, OP is not anonymous, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:55 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

This was back in 1988. I was with some friends after night class at the University of Detroit Renaissance campus downtown. In fact, that night my friend Kathy and I were the only two whites with a group of eight other accounting students that went to a bar for a few beers before heading home. (We were all members of Beta Alpha Psi and often socialized together.) Anyway, when we left and were waiting to cross Jefferson Avenue, I noticed that there were quite a lot of other people milling around, waiting to cross. I don't know if some sporting event had just let out or what. None of us crossed at a traffic light, we just waiting for a break in traffic and then dashed across. A dozen or so cops appeared (some on horseback) and started yelling at everyone to "hold it" and "get your ID out." Most of us stopped, some ran, and some started arguing with the cops. I didn't know what was going on and didn't really think about it, I just fished my driver's license out of my purse and waited to show it to someone. Romona, one of our group, refused to show her ID and kept asking why we were being questioned ("Jaywalking" was the response). Yes, she did eventually raise her voice and pulled away roughly when a female officer reached for her hand. She ended up being one of those handcuffed and herded into a police van and spent several hours in jail. My ID was never checked; the only thing any cop said to me was "you're in the way" when he pushed past me.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:13 AM on December 10, 2010

A Casanova-ish buddy of mine once got a particularly attractive waitress to not only tell him when she was getting off from work (closing), but also got her to agree to meet him afterwards. Unfortunately, she must have gotten cold feet, because there was no sign of her when he showed up back at the (now locked up) restaurant. He wrote it off as an "easy come, easy go" moment and started walking away.

He had gotten about a block or two away when four patrol cars, lights flashing, squealed up next him, effectively boxing him in. Apparently, somebody at the restaurant had reported a suspicious looking character hanging around outside. The cops asked him for his idea, but when my friend, and his famously disorganized wallet, were unable to produce any identification the cop in charge bellowed the words that make me giggle even to this day. "YOU DON'T HAVE ANY ID? ONLY DRUG DEALERS AND RAPISTS DON'T CARRY ID!" Another cop asked him how he bought booze, to which my friend replied, "I'm 17." At that the cops had a chuckle and told him to go home.

The ironic part of this is that the reason my friend was one of those kids who always looked older than their adolescent years. The reason he did't have his ID is because he had shtick of going into liquor stores and rummaging through his -- famously messy -- wallet until the cashiers eventually just gave up and let him buy the booze sans identification.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:53 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some states in the US (including my own, Indiana) are stop-and-identify states, which means any LEO can stop you for any reason and ask for your ID. You can't refuse to show your ID but you don't have to do anything more than that, including answer questions.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:33 PM on December 10, 2010

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