Punished for Your Privacy? Can Police Force You to Identify Yourself?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 05, 2024 | 0 Comments

A man believed to be from New York was arrested when he refused to identify himself at a traffic stop in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The man allegedly ran a red light and refused to provide his identification when stopped by local officers. Although more officers arrived on the scene, the man insisted it was against his faith to provide his ID and began citing federal statutes. The unnamed man was taken into custody, where he faces charges of misdemeanor obstruction, failure to carry a license, and resisting a police officer. 

If you are facing charges for failing to provide an ID or other paperwork to law enforcement officers, contact the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team for help by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.  

Identification Laws 

Several states, including Pennsylvania, have “stop-and-identify” laws, which apply when citizens are asked to provide their identification to officers. Under Title 34, §904(b) of the state's consolidated statutes, individuals who refuse to provide identification to officers while officers are carrying out an investigation or an investigative detention can be charged with a summary offense in the fifth degree. However, it's crucial to understand that the identification laws only apply if the officers are carrying out an investigation or an investigative detention. If you are unsure whether this is happening, ask the officer, “Am I free to go?” If the answer is yes, you are not being detained, and you do not need to provide your ID. If the answer is no, you are being detained, and you must provide your ID, insurance, and registration if you are pulled over while driving.  

Miranda Rights  

If you have seen any cop show, you have heard of a series of famous rights that officers read an accused right as they are being whisked away in custody. These rights, referred to as “Miranda Rights,” originate from a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, the Supreme Court held that law enforcement failed to provide information on a suspect's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, resulting in a wrongfully obtained confession. This ruling led to the creation of the Miranda rights, which include: 

  • Right to Remain Silent: The right not to speak to avoid self-incrimination. 
  • Anything Said Can Be Used Against You in Court: The right to be informed that anything you say could be used against you in court.  
  • Right to an Attorney: The right to receive legal advice during questioning and to have a lawyer present during interrogation. 
  • Right to a Court-Appointed Attorney:  The right to be informed that if you cannot afford an attorney, the court will provide one for them at no cost. 

Do Miranda Rights Affect Identification Laws? 

If you are being detained, you must provide your ID card to officers, but you do not need to answer their questions. You can hand them your ID, registration, and insurance paperwork without saying anything more. Do not leave the scene, or you could face severe criminal consequences. Even if you are driving while your license is suspended, you should not flee. While many officers are adequately trained to issue Miranda Rights, many are not. Illegally obtained statements and evidence may not be admissible in court, meaning that the government cannot use any of it against you in a court of law.  

Criminal Defense Attorneys 

If you are facing criminal charges related to a traffic stop, resisting arrest, or failure to provide identification, contact our  LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team today. Every criminal charge is unique, and there may be many available defenses that can mitigate the severity of your charges. Call us at 888-535-3686 or use our online contact form.  

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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