Police cannot force you to show ID without just cause, so they cannot arrest you for simply refusing to identify yourself. California does not have what is called a “Stop and Identify” or “Papers Please” statute that requires you to produce identification to the police when asked. Just because police ask to see your ID doesn’t mean you have to show it.
Getting Asked For ID Walking On The Street
Let’s take a scenario where you are out on the street, in a bar, or in a public or private place where police are investigating a crime or looking for someone for questioning. They have stopped you and asked for your ID. If you would prefer not to provide identification, you can politely refuse, and ask if you are free to go. If they say “yes,” leave calmly. If they say “no,” it is your right to ask, “Can you tell me why you are stopping me?”
If police believe they have probable cause to suspect you of a crime and you refuse to produce your ID, they may choose to arrest you. If they don’t have probable cause and you refuse to provide ID, most officers will let you go.
Do not — under any circumstances — disrespect a police officer that has stopped you for questioning. Although you have the right to refuse an officer’s ID request, it could lead to your arrest.
Provide Your Driver’s License If Pulled Over By California Police
All of that being said, you are required by law to provide your driver’s license if you are driving and police pull you over. If you cannot provide a valid driver’s license, you may be arrested for a misdemeanor offense, rather than released. This is true even if police only pulled you over to tell you a taillight was out, or something simple like that.
You may want to read our FAQ article on What to Expect at a Traffic Stop in California.
Do Passengers Have To Provide ID?
If the driver of the vehicle you are in is pulled over by police, they may ask you for your ID. You are not required to provide it, but you will want to weigh your options as discussed above. If the officer has probable cause to believe you were involved in a crime, they may arrest you even without seeing your ID. If they don’t have probable cause, they will let you go. Remember to be respectful, and ask if you are free to go.
If Arrested And Taken To The Police Station
If you’ve been arrested or are being booked for a crime, you must provide your ID. You are not required to answer any questions without a lawyer present. Say “I wish to remain silent, and I want to talk to a lawyer.” Don’t discuss the case against you or your immigration status with anyone besides your defense lawyer. Not even your family. Use one of your phone calls to contact a criminal defense lawyer.
Once you have been read your Miranda Rights, anything you say can be used against you in court. Silence is your best defense until you have a lawyer in the room with you.
It’s important to note that police officers throughout the state of California have arrested people for failing to show ID when asked, and charged them with things like resisting a peace officer or detaining them for questioning. Arresting you simply for refusing to show your ID is a wrongful arrest, but it’s still an arrest. And for some, that arrest could have immigration consequences. It could also be a problem for you if you are on probation.
While you have the right to refuse to show your ID, you have to decide if it is worth the risk of possible arrest and a trip to the police station. If you think the police have a case of mistaken identity, handing over identification could help resolve the situation in your favor.
Contact A Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been detained for questioning in a criminal case, or you’ve already been arrested on criminal charges, hiring an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer is your best chance at avoiding a criminal conviction. Don’t talk to the police until you talk to us. We’re available to take your call 24/7.
At Simmrin Law Group, our criminal defense lawyers are experienced in all areas of criminal law, from traffic tickets to federal money laundering charges. Call us today at 310-997-4688 for a free consultation.