Are you Required to show ID to Police ? Depends. Generally, interactions between police and the general public fall into three categories: (1) consensual, (2) detention, or (3) arrests.
First, under consensual interactions between a citizen and the police, the individual approached is not required to identify himself or answer any other questions and generally is free to leave at any time. To determine if the interaction is consensual, start by asking the officer if you’re free to leave. Obviously, if the officer answers or acts in any manner contrary to the affirmative, this is not a consensual encounter and a more complex set of rules may apply under the detention or arrest category.
Secondly, circumstances where a reasonable person would not believe he or she is free to leave will constitute a detention. Under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the police have the right to briefly detain an individual where a reasonable articulable suspicion exists that the person has, is, or is about to commit a crime. These are known as Terry Stops, and are generally limited to a pat-down to determine if a person is carrying a concealed weapon. However, many states, including Arizona have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require persons detained under Terry Stop like conditions to identify themselves by producing identification or supplying identifying information. We’ll touch on what is required below.
Lastly, while a detention only requires reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, an arrest requires probable cause that a person has actually committed a crime. You’ll likely know whether you’re under arrest when the officer says so, however sometimes a detention can morph into an arrest once the officer has secured probable cause to determine an individual had indeed committed a crime. At that point, the police may lawfully search an individual’s person; belongings and anything within his general “grab area.”
So . . . do I Have to Show My ID to The Police or Not?
It depends on which jurisdiction you live in, whether you are operating a motor vehicle, and whether they’ve adopted “stop and identify” statutes. Currently, there are about 24 states that have “Stop and Identify” laws in place, locate your state here. Under Arizona law, specifically, A.R.S §§ 28-1595, 28-3169 the operator of a motor vehicle is required by law to produce identification to a requesting officer during a traffic stop. If you’re driving a car on Arizona public roads you have constructively consented to supplying ID to police upon request. Failure to do so will result in a class 2 misdemeanor.
If You’re Not Driving a Car
Basically the requirement to show ID to the police upon request will always turn on whether the police have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. You can determine that by simply asking the officer if you are free to leave. If not, then most likely you’re required to show ID to the police upon request. The same applies whether you are a passenger in a car, or whether you are walking down the street. In the former, the police must reasonably suspect you are involved in either a traffic or a criminal violation to require you to show ID upon request. If you are walking down the street and the police reasonably suspect you have committed either a criminal or municipal violation they may lawfully require you to show ID to police upon request.
Here, Arizona ID requirements, under A.R.S § 13-2412, stipulates that by refusing to provide a truthful name when lawfully detained will constitute a class 2 misdemeanor. Be aware that you are only required to give your name and/or ID, and are not compelled to answer any other questions by an officer.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line, there are two ways to determine whether you are required to show ID to the police; (1) if you’re operating a motor vehicle, the answer is always yes, and (2) if you’re reasonably suspected of committing a traffic, municipal, or criminal violation the answer is yes. Again, the most simple way of determining this is by simply asking the officer politely “am I free to leave?” even if you are a passenger in a car. So the next time you question whether you are required to show ID to the police, determine whether the encounter is consensual, a detention, or an arrest before refusing to do so in order to mitigate further trouble. Check out this great clip provided by FlexYourRights.org that recaps our discussion.
Note – the aforementioned article, rules, and laws are in no way presented to constitute legal advice. Nor are they meant to apply to any set of specific facts pertaining to your circumstances.