Do You Have To Identify Yourself To The Police Police Interaction Part III (2023)

What should you do when identifying yourself to police? This is the third part in a series of posts about what legal obligation you havewhen you interact withthe police. The second post dealt with the question of when one may lawfully refuse to answer police questions. This third post deals with a hypothetical situation where a police officer asks for identification.


You are standing near a drug store. Suddenly, you hear alarms and see a man in a ski-mask fleeing the store. The police arrive a few minutes later and one of them comes over and asks for your identification.

Identifying Yourself to Police

The BEST answer: Tell him only your name, date of birth, and address.

The CORRECT answer: Hand him your driver’s license or other identification.

The WRONG reaction: No. This is America, I don’t need “papers” to walk the streets in broad daylight.

Stop and Identify

Many states have now passed into law what are generally referred to as “stop and identify” statutes. In Ohio, the law states that someone who has, is, or is about to, commit a criminal offense, or even someone who just witnessed certain criminal offenses, must identify themselves upon request. This identification consists of your name, birthdate, and address. You could provide this information by turning over your ID, but getting it out of your pocket or purse might cause other things to fall out where the officer can see them.

If, for instance, you open your purse to get your ID and the officer sees a bag of marijuana, he can arrest you, seize the marijuana, and it can be used against you as evidence in court. He does not need a warrant or anything like that because you displayed the evidence to him, in plain view. Thus, though it would be legally fine and CORRECT to show him your driver’s license, the BEST solution is to simply tell him the information.

This brings up another important point about dealing appropriately with police officers while shielding yourself from potential problems. Many people assume that officers who are asking questions or performing a search are looking for one specific thing and will not, or are not allowed, to pay attention to anything else they discover.

This is not true. If an item, the criminality of which is evident, comes within an officer’s plain view, he may seize it and see that appropriate charges are brought. Thus, when you are interacting with the police, it is a good idea to never give them more information or opportunity to view your things than absolutely necessary. If the police are talking to you on the street, keep your bags and clothes closed/zipped. Do not retrieve anything from your pockets.

If they are talking to you in your car, keep all containers (glove box, trunk, suitcases etc.) closed and latched. If they come to your house (and you do not think they are there to arrest you), step outside the house and close the door behind you. Do not invite them in to talk. If you believe they are there to arrest you. Talk to them through the door or with the door slightly ajar. Do not invite them in. And in each situation, talk to them as politely as possible and as little as necessary.

Call (614) 454-5010Free Consultation

If you are under investigation, or have been arrested by any Columbus law enforcement agency, feel free to contact one of our experiencedCriminal Defense Attorneys, for a free initial consultation about your legal rights and possible defenses.


Do you have to identify yourself to the police USA? ›

... give your name and the information on your drivers' license. If you don't, you may be arrested, even though the arrest may be illegal.

What happens if you don't answer police questions? ›

You have the constitutional right to remain silent. In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers (or anyone else), even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested, or you are in jail. You cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police in PA? ›

In Pennsylvania, you do not have to give the police information such as your name, address, ID or immigration status. However, if you choose not to show ID or provide your name, you may be detained for a longer time while police attempt to identify you.

Can you refuse to show ID to police in Ohio? ›

If You're Stopped For Questioning

You are required to provide your name, address, and date of birth if a law enforcement officer asks. You may refuse to answer any additional questions. Police may pat down your clothing if they suspect you are carrying a weapon.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police in California? ›

The short answer is yes – there are no “stop and identify” laws in California that require you to show your ID to the police. Thus, in most situations, they cannot penalize you for refusing to provide your ID.

What not to say in a police statement? ›

You cannot make any casual remarks or give an informal statement to law enforcement. Everything you say will be included in a sworn report from the police and can be treated as evidence in a criminal case.

Do you have to answer a police questionnaire? ›

If you're a suspect, you're still not required to answer questions, but the police are likely to ask for your name or address. If you refuse to answer, you may be arrested. This is because the police are allowed to arrest a suspect if they believe it is “necessary” for the investigation.

Who Cannot be called to the police only for questioning? ›

Women cannot be called to the police station for interrogation under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This law provides Indian women the right of not being physically present at the police station for interrogation.

What is it called when police question you? ›

Interrogation (also called questioning) is interviewing as commonly employed by law enforcement officers, military personnel, intelligence agencies, organized crime syndicates, and terrorist organizations with the goal of eliciting useful information, particularly information related to suspected crime.

Can cops ask for passenger ID in PA? ›

Yes. Under current state and federal constitutional law, a police officer is allowed to approach a person on the street and question the person or ask to see ID.

Do you have to get out of the car for police? ›

After coming to a stop in your safe place, you need to stay inside your vehicle. The police officer will approach you, so there's no need to get out. They'll need to talk to you, so you might want to roll your window down in preparation.

What is failure to identify in PA? ›

(1) A person who refuses to provide identification upon demand of an officer whose duty it is to enforce this title after having been told by the officer that the person is the subject of an official investigation or investigative detention, supported by reasonable suspicion, commits a summary offense of the fifth ...

Are you allowed to record police in Ohio? ›

According to the Ohio Bar, as a bystander, it is legal to record police interactions. If you see someone stopped by the police you are permitted to take pictures or video, however, it is important that you do not interfere.

Do police have no legal obligation to protect anyone? ›

True, Unless police have assumed a duty to protect you, they don't have one. “Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur,” said Darren L.

Is Ohio a stand your ground state? ›

Ohio Law. Ohio enacted a stand your ground law in early 2021, which generally prohibits a court or trier of fact from considering whether a person knew they could have retreated before using deadly force in self-defense when the person using force was in any place they had a right to be.

Do you have to answer the door for police in California? ›

The police may knock and announce their presence at your door but, unless they have a warrant, you are not required to open the door, to answer any questions, or to cooperate with the police in any fashion.

Can a police officer record you without your consent in California? ›

Officers can record in-person interactions with the public. There's no mandate that they must record if they're using a personal audio recorder on the job, said Neiman. They get to choose to record or not in every case.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police in Las Vegas? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Nevada law that requires individuals to identify themselves to police when asked.

Do police have to tell you they are recording? ›

Under data protection legislation, officers must inform people that they're being filmed and will do so unless the situation means it's not possible. Otherwise you'll know you're being recorded when the camera has flashing red lights in the centre of it.

Can you refuse to give a police statement? ›

You may decide you do not wish to continue with a complaint and would like the police to cease their investigation. If you decide this before giving a witness statement you can refuse to give one. If you do not give a witness statement, it is unlikely that the police will continue investigating.

Can you refuse a statement to the police? ›

The police will probably want you to give evidence in court to help settle the case. Don't feel pressured to do anything you don't want to - you should do what feels right. If you withdraw your statement, the case might still go to court if the police think they have enough evidence to prosecute the suspect.

Can police check your phone? ›

The police (or other authorities) will generally need a warrant to search your device without your consent (except in certain exceptional circumstances). If police unlawfully search your mobile phone, any evidence recovered can potentially be suppressed, meaning it cannot be used as part of any prosecution against you.

Why do police want to question me? ›

Why Do the Police Want to Question Me? Police try to talk to as many people as possible when investigating a crime. They need to get as much information about the crime as possible. One of the people they talk to is the person they suspect committed the crime they're investigating.

Can police take your phone without permission? ›

Police Authorities directly cannot tap your phone, only home secretary to the state government is the authorized officer to give permission to the police then the police can intercept. As stated by you in the absence of any complaint, the action of the police is absolutely illegal and sheer abuse of power.

What do you say if you are being questioned by police and you don't want to talk? ›

You can say, “I do not want to talk to you” and walk away calmly. Or, if you do not feel comfortable doing that, you can ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, you can consider just walking away. Do not run from the officer.

Can police hit you during interrogation? ›

No one can be tortured, slapped, abused or ill-treated while they are being interrogated or questioned. If the police beat or injure you during interrogation, they can be punished under the law. Custodial rape is a punishable offence under the law.

What Amendment says you don't have to talk to police? ›

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives you the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. You should exercise this right and never, under any circumstances, speak to a police officer. Invoke your 5th Amendment right by stating you do not wish to talk without first consulting a lawyer.

Why do cops give you a glass of water? ›

“Would you like a glass of water?” Drinking a glass of water will leave a small sample of your saliva on the container, and saliva contains your DNA. If the police don't have enough evidence to compel you to submit to a DNA test, don't give them a gift by leaving your DNA on a drink container.

Can police force you to give a statement? ›

You don't have to give a statement but you might still be asked to go to court and say what you know.

What is it called when you disrespect a police officer? ›

"Contempt of cop" is law enforcement jargon in the United States for behavior by people toward law enforcement officers that the officers perceive as disrespectful or insufficiently deferential to their authority.

Can a PA state constable pull you over? ›

It is the constable's job to enforce the law and carry it out, just as the same is the job of district attorneys, sheriffs, and the police generally." Constables may direct traffic and no person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction thereof.

Is PA a stand your ground state? ›

Like many states, Pennsylvania has a “Stand your Ground” law — also known as a “Shoot First” law — that expands the right to use lethal force in self-defense.

Can you go to jail for a summary offense in PA? ›

If you are found guilty of a summary offense in Pennsylvania, you can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and up to $300 in fines. In addition, if your actions caused damages, you may be ordered to pay restitution.

Can the police take your car off you? ›

That means the vehicle doesn't have to have been actively driven to be seized - it just has to have been implicated in some way (for example, as a hiding place for stolen goods). Police can, however, also seize a car if they judge that it's being used in a way that causes alarm, harassment, distress or physical threat.

Can police take your car to drive? ›

The police have the power to seize your vehicle if: You're driving without adequate car insurance cover. Your driver's license doesn't certify you to drive that type of vehicle. Your driving is inconsiderate, careless or dangerous and is causing alarm or distress to others.

Can police let you off for speeding? ›

When you're caught speeding by a police officer. If you're caught speeding by a police officer, they may do one of three things. If it's a minor offence, they may let you off with a verbal warning. They could also give you a Fixed Penalty Notice, or send one to you by post.

Do you have to stop for an unmarked police car in PA? ›

According to 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3733, you face the possibility of being arrested for evading the police if you fail to pull over for an unmarked police car. Your arrest, though, is contingent on police officers making themselves known as police officers – even in an unmarked car.

What is improper identification? ›

It includes a driver's license or any other government-issued identification. To be fake, it must have been altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or is a counterfeit. The intent component is explained as an intention to deceive someone for the purpose of causing loss or damage to their rights.

Is PA a no cause state? ›

Pennsylvania follows the doctrine of employment at will. This means that employers and employees are allowed to terminate their relationship at any time and for any reason. However, they cannot do so in a manner that is unlawful.

Can police ask for ID in the US? ›

Stop-and-Identify Laws

Under these laws, if a police officer reasonably suspects that someone has engaged in criminal activity, the officer can detain that person and ask for identification. A person who refuses to provide identification commits the crime of resisting an officer's lawful order. (Hiibel v.

Are you allowed to record police us? ›

Most courts agree that the First Amendment gives you the right to record—with pictures, video, and audio—police officers who are on duty in public. Although the First Amendment doesn't say we have a right to record the police, it does give us the rights of free speech and a free press.

Is it illegal to impersonate a police officer in the US? ›

False representation as an officer is completely illegal, no matter the context. An individual who wears police articles of clothing, including uniforms, IDs, patches, or buttons as a form of impersonation can be convicted of this crime as well.

When can police search your car? ›

if there has been serious violence or disorder in the area. if police are looking for a suspect who fits your description. if police have reasonable grounds to suspect you're carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property.

Can you be handcuffed while being detained? ›

At any time after they place someone under arrest – Once the suspect is in custody, police can keep them in handcuffs in most circumstances.

Can you stop someone from recording you? ›

You can sue someone for recording you there without your consent, as that's a gross infringement of federal law. However, federal laws are one-party consent laws [4]. That means that it's only necessary that one person consents to the conversation being recorded on a digital device.

Can police listen recording? ›

Without permission from Superintendent of police or from court , police cannot intercept your phone or obtain call records or data messages from your mobile phone service provider.

What is 174 police code? ›

When the officer in charge of a police station or some other police officer specially empowered by the State Government in that behalf receives information that a person has committed suicide, or has been killed by another or by an animal or by machinery or by an accident, or has died under circumstances raising a ...

Is it illegal to insult a police officer in the US? ›

Some people are tempted to insult a police officer, call them a name, or otherwise give them a hard time when they are being arrested or approached. But, insulting a police officer may get you in trouble. Insulting someone is not illegal anywhere in this country.

What is it called when you pretend to be a police officer? ›

Police impersonation is the act of falsely portraying oneself as a member of the police for the purpose of deception.

Do the police need a reason to pull you over? ›

Being stopped doesn't mean you're under arrest or have done anything wrong. A police officer must have a good reason for stopping and/or searching you and they are required to tell you what that reason is.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Arline Emard IV

Last Updated: 01/11/2023

Views: 5613

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Arline Emard IV

Birthday: 1996-07-10

Address: 8912 Hintz Shore, West Louie, AZ 69363-0747

Phone: +13454700762376

Job: Administration Technician

Hobby: Paintball, Horseback riding, Cycling, Running, Macrame, Playing musical instruments, Soapmaking

Introduction: My name is Arline Emard IV, I am a cheerful, gorgeous, colorful, joyous, excited, super, inquisitive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.