Refusal and Reasonable Suspicion

In some states, a stop and identify law mandates that citizens must produce identification if stopped and detained by a law enforcement officer. This is not to say, however, that police may arbitrarily stop law-abiding citizens and demand ID; officers must have reasonable suspicion before they may lawfully stop and detain someone.

There are, however, several states that do not have a stop and identify statute, and residents of these states are not required to show identification, even if they have been lawfully stopped on reasonable suspicion. Before you refuse to identify yourself to law enforcement officers, you should know your state’s laws regarding stop and identify.

What if I don’t have an ID?

In the U.S., there is no law that says you must carry identification with you at all times. Generally speaking, you are only required to carry ID if you are operating a motor vehicle or are a passenger on an airplane. In other words, you cannot be arrested simply for not having an ID on you, as long as you are not engaged in an activity which requires some form of identification.

When can an officer demand my ID?

Even if your state has a stop and identify law, police do not have the authority to demand you show your ID for no good reason. Police officers must have reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed or are about to commit a crime before they may lawfully detain you and demand to see your identification.

If you are unsure of whether you are being detained, you should courteously ask the officer, “Am I free to go or am I being detained?”

Stop and Identify