Know your Rights

Know your Rights

Recently we published a polling question over on Facebook: Can an officer demand you provide them with identification?

Five possible answers:

Yes, anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

Yes, but only if you're driving or committing a crime.

Yes, but only if you're committing a crime.

Yes, but only if they think you did something wrong.


There was a high turn out for the voting.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of answers were wrong.  It's important that people know what their rights are, and that they exercise their rights.  Before we get into the answers I feel that we should give some reasoning for the answers. The primary two cases relied upon for this answer are:

Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nevada, Humboldt County 542 U.S. 177: Mr. Hiibel was arrested for failing to offer identification. The arrest was held to be constitutional because the request for identification was “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified” the stop. The officer's request was a commonsense inquiry, not an effort to obtain an arrest for failure to identify after a Terry stop yielded insufficient evidence. The stop, the request, and the State's requirement of a response did not contravene the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment, nor did it violate Mr. Hiibel's Fifth Amendment rights. (Keep in mind that while this was Nevada law, it was a US Constitutional interpretation by the Supreme Court, Minnesota Constitution may grant us more protection - but probably not)

Kedzior v. County of Hennepin 1991 WL 53972: This was an older case, but here Mr. Kedzior was suspected of staking a place out for a "smash & grab" over in Richfield. The officer had a valid reason to stop him, and asked for identification under a city identification ordinance. Failure to provide the identification got him charged.

Now for the good stuff - the analysis. To my knowledge and based on all research at this time - Minnesota does not have a "stop and identify" statute. But many cities in Minnesota do. Therefore, unless you know for sure, it's best to assume that the city you are in has such an ordinance. In order for the officer to demand identification and be entitled to identification, they must (according to case law) have a reasonable and articulable basis for such a demand. Here is where one of the problems comes in. Officers don't need to tell you that they have a reason to demand your identification.


1) Yes, anytime, anywhere, for any reason: is incorrect because they do have to have a reason - but they don't have to tell you (if someone was charged without knowing that the officer had a reason, they have a pretty good defense - but that's another issue)

2) Yes, but only if you're driving or committing a crime: is incorrect, officers cannot ask for your identification simply because you are driving a vehicle - they have to have a reason.

3) Yes, but only if you are committing a crime: is incorrect, because you don't have to have committed a crime, the officer simply has to have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that you committed a crime (or are attempting to do so)

5) No: is wrong, because most cities have a "stop and identify" city ordinance, and if the officer has a reason, they can demand identification - in most applications a good attorney can probably convince the judge this is the right answer, but that's not what we asked.

4) Yes, but only if they think you did something wrong: Is the technical and correct answer. The officer has to have a reasonable articulable suspicion.

Please keep in mind - as with all legal arguments that there are always exceptions and exemptions to every rule.

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