DO I HAVE TO SHOW POLICE MY ID?
When the police ask something, anything, it’s not really asking, is it? If they ask you for ID, do you have to show it to them? Like most encounters with the police, that depends. Specifically on the type of police encounter and your relation to it. When police ask for ID, they expect you to produce it. But there’s no law in Illinois requiring you to carry an ID if you aren’t driving. There’s also no law that you have to show the police ID just because they ask you for it.
SO WHEN DO YOU HAVE TO SHOW/PRODUCE ID?
- You are in public
- The police tell you they’re police
- Reasonable suspicion exists you are involved in a crime
IF YOU DON’T HAVE IDENTIFICATION, WHAT INFO DO YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM?
- Reason for actions in question
Whether or not you have to provide police your ID depends entirely on one question:
WHY ARE THEY TALKING TO YOU?
STOPPED IN A CAR
DRIVER: When a car is pulled over by the police, the DRIVER MUST SHOW IDENTIFICATION. The alleged traffic violation gives police the reasonable suspicion to force you to provide identification. Basically, they have the right to investigate whether or not you hold a valid license to be able to drive a car.
PASSENGER(S): Passengers in a vehicle during a traffic stop do NOT have to provide ID or information if there is no reasonable suspicion that the passenger is engaged in a potential crime.
For example, if the if you are in your friend’s car and he gets pulled over for speeding, with those facts alone, you do not have to show your ID or provide your information to the ticketing cop. However, if you’re in your friend’s car and he gets pulled over for speeding AND the car smells like marijuana, you HAVE to provide identification or info to the police. The smell of marijuana gives the officer reasonable suspicion that anyone in the car could be involved in criminal activity. Traffic stop alone- no duty for passenger to provide ID/info. Traffic stop + reasonable suspicion linked to passenger = passenger must provide ID/info.
STOPPED ON THE STREET
If the police approach you on the street, you don’t have to provide them with ID/info….. unless…. the police have reasonable suspicion you may be committing a crime. What gives them reasonable suspicion? A bulge in your pocket, suspect narcotics in your hand or falling out of your pocket, open alcohol, basically, can they point to things during the on-the-street encounter that looks like a crime could be afoot. Make them point out those reasons to you before you give your ID. Be polite, be courteous, but ask why they think you’ve committed a crime. If they can’t tell you why they think you’ve committed a crime, you can refuse giving them your ID/info. Just do so in a polite way.
The law treats police like normal people in some ways, and others ways not so much. Like a normal person, the police can go up to you and ask you anything. You have a duty as a citizen to know the law says you can terminate that encounter. That idea sounds nice written on a page. It’s much more difficult when you’re face to face with a person who has the legal authority to put you in handcuffs and take you away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t say no to the police. Police officers understand this dilemma. A common tactic of law enforcement is to use consensual conversations to build up criminal suspicion. As long as the encounter is consensual, that’s lawful. That means that just because Officer Friendly is asking you about where to find the best coffee in town doesn’t mean he’s not investigating you for a crime. But he can observe & lookup for a crime while consensually speaking with you. Fact is, if you aren’t suspected of a crime or a witness to a crime, there is no reason to EVER speak to the police. They might be nice. They might be friendly. Sure. Then hang out with them like you do with your normal friends, where no one has handcuffs.
RULE: If there is no suspicion of a crime and you’re not driving a car, the short answer is NO, you have no legal obligation to provide ID to the police.
But remember, even if the police don’t think have reasonable suspicion to believe you are involved in a crime, they can still ask you for your ID. You just have to be able to say No. To do so, you have to know when the law requires it and when it doesn’t. The police aren’t going to make that clear. If you’re not driving a car and a police officer asks for your identification, your response is simple: “I’m sorry, but unless you think I’ve committed a crime, no?” If they say some smartass response like “that’s what we’re trying to figure out” Politely respond, “what crime are you trying to figure out?” Whatever happens next, the point is they’ve got to come up with a justification. A justification that is now on the record. Later on in court, they will have to point to the exact factors that led them to believe you were involved in a crime.
Whether or not the police have the requisite reasonable suspicion to believe you could be committing a crime, don’t be a dick to the cops. They may not have the right to force you to provide your ID, but that doesn’t mean you have to pick up a resisting arrest charge. In fact, the law clearly states that you can be convicted of resisting arrest even if the basis of the arrest is illegal. That’s why the best approach is to make the cop establish on the record why they believe you committed a crime and then comply with their request. You’ll still get arrested but you’ve given yourself the best chance of beating your case.
If you’ve been arrested by the police, call our office. We have successfully litigated motions to suppress crimes resulting out of police-citizen stops. We know when the police can ask for your ID and when they can’t. That’s our job. Whether or not you have to show the police your ID legally, always respond to the request politely. You might be right, let them be wrong. We can prove you right later. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer now 312-322-9000