A frequent question I am asked by friends, family, and clients is “Do I have to provide my driver’s license, or other identification, to a police officer if they ask me for it?” In other words they want to know if they have a right to refuse to provide their driver’s license, or other identifying information, to the police officer. The simple answer is you probably have to provide your identification to the police officer in most circumstances. Read on for a more thorough answer.
There are two different obvious scenarios where you may be asked for identification by a police officer. One would be when you are stopped by a police officer in your car. The other would be when you are stopped by a police officer in public for any other reason (i.e. walking down the street, hanging out in the park, at the shopping mall, etc.) Idaho law is settled when it comes to being stopped by a police officer in your car. There is no settled law when it comes to the other scenarios mentioned.
When it comes to a police officer stopping you in your car, as long as the police officer has a legitimate reason for stopping you, he can legally ask you for identification, proof of insurance, and registration for the vehicle. He can even ask for these things when he has no reason to believe there is criminal activity afoot. For example, he can ask for these items even when he is performing his “community care taking function”. Community care taking function is the role an officer plays when he helps someone who is broken down on the side of the road for example. An officer can stop to see if you need help, and in the process can ask for license, insurance and registration.
The Idaho Supreme Court decided the issue of whether a motorist must supply identification in State v. Martinez, 136 Idaho 436 (2001). For a more detailed analysis, you can look that case up.
As far as whether you must provide identification when you are simply a pedestrian, there is no specific case law on that issue. At least none that I can find. If I had to venture a guess, based on my reading of the analysis done in State v. Martinez, it appears you probably would have to provide identification if an officer stopped you as a pedestrian in most circumstances. The only circumstance I can imagine where you would at least have an argument that you do not have to provide identification is if the Officer had no reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, or if the officer had no reason to think you needed his help (community care taking function). For example, if the officer was just questioning everyone in a park, and asked for their personal identification, I could imagine you could argue that you have no duty to provide the ID, since the office neither suspects you committed a crime, nor do you appear in need of his assistance.
Many times showing your driver’s license to a police officer can result in further charges, like Driving Without Privileges (probably the reason you didn’t want to show the officer you ID to begin with). If you have charges against you as a result of showing an officer your identification (or not showing him as the case may be), please call our office to see if we can assist you in defending your case.