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When do you have to identify yourself to a police officer?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In some states, they have enacted stop-and-identify laws. This means that a police officer can stop you and request you to show them your identification papers, and you have to comply.

But this type of law has not been created in California. Police officers are not allowed to randomly stop citizens and ask them for identification. They must have a reason to do so. Below are a few examples of when police can compel you to identify yourself.

During a traffic stop

First of all, all drivers are required to produce identification in the form of a driver’s license if they are stopped while in their vehicle. That stop does need to be legal, of course, but there are many reasons for traffic stops. These could include things like breaking the speed limit, committing mechanical violations or showing signs of impairment.

During a Terry stop

Another example is a Terry stop, which is when a police officer has a reason to believe someone may have participated in criminal activity. This may or may not be true, but the officer has a right to briefly stop the person and ask for identification as they try to discover whether or not they had any involvement.

During a legal detention

Additionally, police officers are allowed to ask for identification if someone has been detained. This is seen as a safety feature. Police may want to find out if the person has a violent criminal record, for instance.

That being said, there are plenty of situations in which the police may violate your rights while asking for identification or making an arrest. In a situation like this, it’s incredibly important to know what legal options you have.