Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Contact Us for a Free Consultation 510.785.1444

When Do I Have to Give Police My ID?

A lot of people don't understand what it is like to grow up in certain neighborhoods where the police treat everyone like they're guilty. Even if you aren't doing anything wrong, the police may try to stop you, ask you insulting questions, and demand your license. When do you have to give the police your ID?

If you are walking along the street, you don't have to show police your ID unless you are being arrested or detained. However, if you are driving and the police stop you, you are required to show your driver's license. Unfortunately, even if you know your rights the police may not always respect them. 

Here is some helpful information about your rights, what you have to do, and what you may want to do when stopped by the police. If you end up under arrest for drunk driving or other criminal charges, talk to an experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

Do I Have to Show My ID During a Traffic Stop?

If you are stopped by police during a traffic stop, you have to provide the following, if requested by law enforcement: 

  • Driver's license
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Vehicle insurance

These are all required during a traffic stop because they provide evidence that you are operating a vehicle legally on the highway. Vehicles have to be registered and insured. Drivers must also be licensed. Without evidence of registration, a license, or insurance, the police may ask you a lot more questions because you are already in violation of California traffic laws. 

I Don't Have My License

Driving without a license under California Vehicle Code 12500 can result in a fine or misdemeanor charges. The police will generally ask for more information, including your name, whether you have a valid license, and ask about the owner of the vehicle. 

Even if you have a license but leave it at home, you are required to carry the license when driving the vehicle. If you have a government ID with your name and picture (military ID or a passport), and a license check shows that your license is valid and there are no warrants, the police may be more likely to give you an infraction (ticket) or let you go with a warning. 

If you don't have ID or your story sounds suspicious, you may be more likely to end up under arrest. If the police later find out that you have a suspended license or other violations, you can be charged with those additional criminal charges. The police will also impound the car, in most situations. 

Do Passengers Have to Show ID?

Passengers do not have to show identification to the police unless there is probable cause that the passengers are involved in a crime. 

Do I Have to Show ID on the Street?

Some states have laws that require them to show their identification whenever requested by law enforcement. These are known as "Stop and Identify" statutes. For example, if you are in Arizona and the police ask for your name, you must give your name or ID so the officer can identify you. 

California does not have a stop-and-identify law. The U.S. Supreme Court in Kolender v. Lawson struck down California's law to require "credible and reliable" identification as overly vague. 

If you are walking down the street in Oakland and a police officer walks up to you, remember, you have the right to remain silent. Police can detain you briefly if they have reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. If the police don't have reasonable suspicion of a crime or violation, they cannot stop you. 

Ask if you are free to leave, if not, then you are being detained and you can tell them you would like to remain silent and want to talk to a lawyer. Do not resist or fight with the police or you could face additional criminal charges. 

It is not against the law to refuse to identify yourself. However, the police may be able to detain you until they can establish your identity. If you give a false name to the police, you can be charged with providing false information to law enforcement. Instead of lying, it is better to stay silent. 

Common Sense Information About Identifying Yourself

Most people walking along the street who are asked by police for ID hand it over. Even if they have the right to refuse, it can make for a shorter interaction. You may not want to spend any more time dealing with the police than you have to. You are free to talk to the police, give them your name, or show your ID. However, standing by your rights does not mean you are doing anything wrong. 

How Can a Lawyer Help if Police Arrest You Without Probable Cause?

The police don't always follow the laws they are sworn to protect. If the police make a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or crime, the traffic stop may be illegal. If you are arrested for anything found after an unlawful traffic stop, your attorney can fight for your rights in court and keep any unlawful evidence out of court. 

If the police stop you and detain you without reasonable suspicion of a crime, your attorney can also fight for your constitutional rights and get the charges dropped. It is unfortunate that you have to do so much to protect your rights but it is important to make sure you don't end up with a criminal record because of unlawful police treatment.  

Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of East Bay criminal defense experience and understands how much is at stake for people dealing with a criminal record. She understands how to approach the individual case and defense strategies to avoid a conviction. If you are a driver facing criminal charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick for help

Serving The Bay Area

We strive to make the highest quality legal representation accessible and affordable.