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When do I have to show ID?

This is a tricky issue. As a general principle, citizens who are minding their own business are not obligated to “show their papers” to police. In fact, there is no law requiring citizens to carry identification of any kind.

Nonetheless, carrying an ID is required when you’re driving or flying. Driving without a license is a crime, and no one is allowed to board an airplane without first presenting an ID. These requirements have been upheld on the premise that individuals who prefer not to carry ID can choose not to drive or fly.

From here, ID laws only get more complicated. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, the Supreme Court upheld state laws requiring citizens to disclose their identity to police when officers have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity may be taking place. Commonly known as ‘stop and identify’ statutes, these laws permit police to arrest criminal suspects who refuse to identify themselves.

Currently the following states have stop and identify laws: AL, AR, CO, DE, FL, GA, IL, KS, LA, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, ND, RI, UT, VT, WI

Regardless of your state’s law, keep in mind that police can never compel you to identify yourself without reasonable suspicion to believe you’re involved in criminal activity. Rather than asking the officer if he/she has reasonable suspicion, test it yourself by asking if you’re free to go.

If the officer says you’re free to go, leave immediately and refrain from answering any additional questions.

If the officer detains you, you’ll have to decide whether withholding your identity is worth the possibility of arrest or a prolonged detention. In cases of mistaken identity, revealing who you are might help to resolve the situation quickly. On the other hand, if you’re on parole in California, for example, revealing your identity could lead to a legal search. Knowing your state’s laws can help you make the best choice.

**Keep in mind that the officer’s decision to detain you will not always hold up in court. ‘Reasonable suspicion’ is a vague evidentiary standard, which lends itself to mistakes on the officer’s part. If you’re searched or arrested following an officer’s ID request, always contact an attorney to discuss the incident and explore your legal options.**


Check out this AWESOME site for more info about your rights. The Beat The Heat book is amazing, as well as the Busted! DVD.

AS usual haha :) I <3 u, ACLU!


Identifying yourself: In the state of Maryland you are NOT required to identify yourself in a simple street stop like this. The boy was clearly not “suspicious” or looked like he was involved in crime, so he was not required to identify himself, although stating your name and address could be beneficial depending on the situation. And, while being rude to cops may be stupid, it isn’t a crime, so watch out for police who threaten you with violence if you let something slip. Check the above post for more information.

If you find yourself in this above situation:

-Keep quiet. Say “I’m going to remain silent and I would like to see my lawyer”, and then SHUT UP! Remember, if you say ANYTHING after you say you’re going to remain silent, your cone of protection is nullified and you can be questioned as much as the cops see fit.
-If you feel you’re not allowed to leave, politely ask, “Am I free to go?” and/or “Am I being detained?”. Depending on the answer, decide whether to walk away CALMLY, or to remain silent. If you are being detained, ask for your lawyer, and then shut up.
-If the police ever use physical force, DO NOT RESIST. Simply touching a police officer could be called assault on an officer.
-As soon as possible write down everything that happened. Write names, faces, places, any and every detail you can remember of what was done and said. This can help you file a police misconduct report and possibly help you with your case if you were charged.

Whenever in a police encounter, remember these three phrases:

“Officer, am I free to go?”
“I do not consent to this search”
“I am going to remain silent, and I would like to see a lawyer”

Officer Rivieri is currently on paid suspension pending an investigation.

Today is World AIDS Day. Check out the following websites to see what you can do to stop with epidemic. Click on the “heading” link, as well as the article link, because it will lead to that website’s section on AIDS. – their website is filled with all sorts of information, and even has an article about how our government is trying to stop our efforts to end the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. – filled with great ideas on how you can get involved. – had a whole newflash on World AIDS Day. Here’s an article about the number of young Americans contracting HIV/AIDS is on the rise. There’s also another article about China, and their AIDS problem.

The most important website I’ve found, was They sent out this amazing e-mail to those on their mailing list about World AIDS Day. They recommend that you “take a moment to honor those who have list their lives to this devastating disease by taking action.” We need to tell our legislators to invest in the wide variety of sectors that play a role in stopping the spead of HIV- including food security, microfinance, reproductive health and education. They need to focus on women in developing countries who are particulary vulnerable to HIV – those who are less able to negotiate sexual relations and victims of sexual violence and they need to allocate sufficient funds to comprehensive prevention efforts, and remove policy and budget restrictions such as the “abstinence-until-marriage” crap.

In 2003, the United States launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative has led to substantial increases in the total number of people receiving AIDS treatment, care, and HIV prevention information. The leadership demonstrated by PEPFAR has contributed significantly to the fight against AIDS globally but much more needs to be done. The current PEPFAR legislation is set to expire in 2008, and Congress soon will be hard at work authorizing a new bill, so please write your legislators today and tell them to support programs that address the social, economic and cultural reasons that make people vulnerable to HIV, not just programs that address the health dimension alone. Check out CARE‘s TAKE ACTION ON AIDS page and send a letter to your legislators today.

If you want to contact your legislators on your own, go to and enter your zip code into the appropriate box. They will list all your representatives from your country’s President to your state’s House of Delegates members and if you click on the person’s name, how to contact them. I prefer e-mailing or calling my representatives rather than hand writing a letter, but if you have a personal story to go along with your letter, I think hand writing would be the best way.