Are you required by law to carry an identification card?

Question by ultraindy: Are you required by law to carry an identification card?
A coworker of mine mentioned today that there is no law on the books that require that you to have an identification card of some kind on you in California. He went on to add that if a police officer asks you for ID that you can refuse and that he has to get a “bench warrant” to proceed further, or let you go. This guy is notorious for suggesting such things (not to mention, the source of all sorts of conspiracy theories/urban legends that are true/etc.).

Does anyone know if this is true and, if so, where I could find it online to shut this guy up?

Thanks in advance.

Best answer:

Answer by Ben O
The guy is tecnically correct, if you’re not driving a vehicle, there is no law that says you have to show ID to a police officer, but it takes a brave person to stand up for their legal rights when dealing with the police.

Why would a police officer be asking you for identification, that implies they are investigating suspicious curcumstances. If the police want to, they can do things to you that you aren’t going to like, like arrest you (as refusing to show ID looks suspicious) and keep you for up to 24 hours without charge and let you go again and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. They could even find something to charge you with and even if you are innocent, you will have to pay for you own lawyer, or have some court appointed rookie just out of law school represent you.

Also if you are driving a vehicle, you are required to show a police officer your licence when requested.

What do you think? Answer below!


  • stiggo629

    Well, he’s part right. You aren’t required to carry an ID. But failure to provide identification to a police officer can be considered interfering with the officer’s performance of their duties, which can get you in trouble. The Supreme Court said that withholding ID from a police officer is not a protected activity under the 1st Amendment.

  • sensible_man

    If you are asked by law enforcement for an ID, they have a reason. If you refuse to show it, they can (and sometimes will) take you downtown until you can provide an ID or proof of who you are. Not worth it to prove there is no law covering this. You can be a jailed suspect.

  • Brian A

    Not being required to carry ID is not the same as refusing to show ID that you DO have to a police officer who requests it.

  • John S

    First, what the United States Supreme Court said. What the United States Supreme Court held in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court (2004) 542 U.S. 177, was that a state could make it a crime for a person to refuse to identify himself (i.e., tell the officer his name and address) when lawfully detained for criminal activity. Note that the Supreme Court did NOT say that any kind of identification papers could be required, nor did they say that police officers could ordinarily arrest someone for refusing to identify himself absent a state law permitting that arrest. There is no law in the United States requiring everybody to carry ID, at least not yet.

    There is NO law in California requiring anybody to carry identification. There is no law making it illegal for anyone (even someone lawfully detained) to fail to have identification papers or to refuse to identify himself (there was such a law, which was declared unconstitutional). Thus, Hiibel is of no effect in California, since there is no comparable law there. (It is, however, a crime to give a FALSE identification.)

    A person CANNOT be arrested just for failing to identify himself or failing to have ID, even with a lawful detention. It is NOT interfering with an officer. The only effect of not having ID occurs if a police officer has probable cause to believe an arrestee has committed a criminal offense. A police officer who could otherwise give an arrestee a citation to appear would instead take the person into custody to appear before a magistrate. But this is ONLY if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime–NOT just because the person did not have ID.

    Of course, one must have identification in his or her possession when driving, and a police officer obviously can demand to see a drivers license from any driver lawfully detained.