California does not have a “Stop and Identify” statute requiring you to produce identification to the police when asked. Just because police ask for your ID doesn’t mean you have to show it. Police cannot force you to show ID without just cause, so they cannot arrest you for simply refusing to identify yourself.
However, the situation in which you are asked for ID matters when deciding whether you must identify yourself to a police officer in California. For example, you must carry your driver’s license when you operate a vehicle because you must show it if you are pulled over. Learn more about other scenarios when you may be asked for identification.
Getting Asked for ID Walking on the Street
If you are out on the street, in a bar, or in a public or private place, you may encounter police investigating a crime or looking for someone for questioning. If they stop you and ask for your ID but you prefer not to provide it, you can politely refuse and ask if you are free to go. If they say “yes,” then leave. If they say “no,” ask why you were stopped.
If the police believe they have probable cause to suspect you of a crime and you refuse to produce your ID, they may arrest you. If they don’t have probable cause and you refuse to provide ID, most officers will simply 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.
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ID Request When Pulled Over by California Police
If you operate a motor vehicle in California, you should know what to expect at a traffic stop. You are required by law to present your driver’s license if you are driving and the police pull you over. If you cannot show a valid driver’s license, you are at the mercy of that officer’s discretion.
Driving without a license can be an infraction or a misdemeanor offense. You can be placed under arrest for a misdemeanor offense. This is true even if police only pulled you over to tell you a taillight was out or something equally minor.
If you are charged for driving without a license, an attorney familiar with California laws may be able to help you navigate the legal process to reduce or eliminate the charge. Contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.
Do Passengers Have to Provide ID?
If you are a passenger in a car that is pulled over by police, they may ask for your ID. You are not required to provide it, but you will want to weigh your options before deciding.
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.
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If Arrested and Taken to the Police Station
If you are arrested or being booked for a crime, you must provide your ID to the police. However, 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 family members. Use one of your phone calls to contact a criminal defense lawyer.
Your Miranda Rights
When you are arrested, the law enforcement agency is constitutionally required to advise you of your Miranda rights before they can begin your questioning. They will typically recite the Miranda warning, which includes:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided.
- You can request that your attorney be present during questioning.
The officer may ask if you understand your Miranda rights and whether you wish to speak with them now that you understand your rights. You do not have to speak to the officer before you speak with a lawyer.
Although a recent Supreme Court decision makes it more difficult for defendants to pursue civil remedies against officers who fail to advise of Miranda rights, law enforcement is still required to read you these rights before questioning. If they fail to do so, they may still use your statements or actions to pursue criminal charges, so protect your rights by remaining silent and respectful.
Once the officer reads your Miranda Rights to you, anything you say can be used against you in court. To be safe, avoid making any statements to law enforcement or others who are nearby, even before hearing your Miranda Rights. Silence is your best defense until you have a lawyer in the room with you.
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Can You Be Arrested for Not Showing Your ID?
Technically, an officer should not be able to arrest you for refusing to show ID, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. 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
- Detainment 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 must decide if it’s 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.
If You Are Wrongfully Arrested
If you are wrongfully arrested, stay silent but respectful and contact a criminal defense attorney with one of your phone calls. A lawyer can help defend your legal rights and seek to have wrongful charges dropped.
If you are arrested with cause, your attorney will work with you and law enforcement to reach an equitable solution. If you are detained, your lawyer will defend your rights in hearings and in criminal court, if necessary.
What Do You Need for California ID?
If a California police officer asks you for identification, this usually means your driver’s license. However, not all California residents drive. If you don’t have a driver’s license, show your state ID or any form of identification you carry.
Ideally, your ID card should include:
- A photo that looks like you
- Your full name
- Your address, school, or work location
Other examples of valid ID cards include school or work photo IDs, military ID cards, green cards, and passports.
Presenting valid ID immediately can help officers quickly identify you. If it is a case of mistaken identity, your ID can quickly clear up any questions for the officer and send you on your way. If you are still detained in spite of presenting valid identification, contact a defense attorney as soon as you can.
How Long Can Police Detain You in California?
In other states, police may detain you for up to 72 hours or more. In California, you may not be detained for more than 48 hours, according to Penal Code § 825. Within this window of time, police must either charge you with a crime or release you.
Special exceptions apply if police suspect you of a serious crime. You may be held for up to 96 hours if police suspect you of murder. If you are arrested under the Terrorism Act, you could be held for 14 days.
A criminal defense lawyer will know what your legal rights are for detention without charges. They will act on your behalf to protect your legal right to fair detention periods and representation.
When to 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 a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer is your best chance at avoiding a criminal conviction. Don’t talk to the police until you talk to a lawyer. The criminal defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group are here to help.
With decades of experience in California legal defense, we are well-equipped to provide you with the support you need from initial investigations through negotiations, hearings, and trial. We have an established reputation as an effective criminal defense firm, and we specialize in complex cases. Reach out to our lawyers today to discuss your case and learn more about your legal right to representation.