An officer asks for your ID. Do you have to give them your ID?

The simple answer to this question is no, in New York you are not required to show the police your identification. However, you will note that I am still writing….

Many states have stop and identify statutes which allow the police to stop people and ask them to identify themselves, and to arrest them if they do not. The Supreme Court held this practice constitutional in a case called Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 (2004). The Court held that disclosing one’s name does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures nor the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination because Hiibel had no reasonable belief that his name would be used to incriminate him. New York does not have a stop and identify statute. Other states do have these statutes

What does this mean for you? First, if the police just walk up to you and start asking you questions you can respond with, “Am I being detained?” If the answer is no, you can continue on. You are not legally required to carry ID, and the police cannot arrest you for refusing to show ID to an officer in that circumstance. Under New York law you are not required to answer any questions the police ask you, including your name, or give your ID unless the police have reason to suspect that you may be involved in criminal activity. However, while the police cannot arrest you for not showing ID, they might arrest you for a “cover charge,” such as disorderly conduct, if they do not like the way you refused their request. Use your own judgment in responding to a request for ID; it may be easier to just comply.

The next type of police interaction is what we all know as a stop and frisk. This means the police “think” that you are doing something “suspicious.” When the police detain you, they “may demand” identifying information. Although you are not legally required to carry ID, there are numerous reasons you may very well want, or need, to do so. If you are on a bike, electric bike, or car you need to have identification. When you are using a student Metrocard you should carry ID, because student metrocards can only be used by the student whose name is on it in days when school is in session. This is a flash point for police harassment. When you are in a public, or private, housing complex it often avoids hassle to carry identification. If you live in the building and are stopped by a patrol, showing your ID will prove you have the right to be in the building (assuming your address on the ID is correct). Additionally, if you are not a US citizen, you are required to carry immigration documents.

Finally, if you are stopped and the police want to issue you a summons on the street they cannot do so without your ID. Instead they will arrest you, run your fingerprints, and release you after determining who you are and that you have no warrants. That means that if you are stopped for a minor violation such as an open container, or riding your bike on the sidewalk and do not provide ID, you can be arrested.