State Laws Vary On Police Demands To Show Identification


Are you required to show identification to a police officer? It depends on where you are, say Hearst Newspapers. In states like California and New York, the courts have ruled you can’t be busted for balking on ID, said Santa Cruz, Ca., lawyer Katya Komisaruk. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Nevada law that cops can bust you for withholding an ID, if they have reasonable suspicion you were involved in a crime. Other states have similar “stop and identify” laws, with variations.

If you are driving, you must produce a driver’s license when stopped because motoring is a privilege. The nation’s various obstruction, “stop and identify” and “stop and frisk” laws are so vague “you can chose to enforce it against whoever you want to,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia and Yale. “This has severe consequences.” They’re also known as “contempt of cop laws” or “cover charges”, because police are suspected of using them to punish attitude or justify injurious force. Seattle Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb admitted his departments’ officers interpret the city’s obstruction law differently depending on their point of view. He said it has been a hot topic among officers, partly because the laws are vague.

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