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Are you required to provide ID as a passenger?

Original Post: 05/14/2017

The preceding is for informational purposes only.

Being stopped by the police is not usually a pleasant experience. Even with the most benign of infractions, the encounter can be adversarial. The idea of authority can lead most people to do things that they are not required to do out of fear of being arrested or having their liberties taken.

Many people are not aware of their rights on the road. Here at Aldrich Legal Services, we often get asked are you required to show an ID as a passenger. This article will focus on your rights as a passenger, especially focusing on identification.

Background on Passengers with ID

The story of a man arrested and charged with drug possession in Utah exemplifies this problem. According to an online media report, a Utah Highway Patrol officer reportedly stopped the driver for making an illegal lane change. During the stop, the officer asked the man, who was a passenger in the vehicle, for his license so that he could check the status of the license and check for warrants.

As it turns out, an outstanding warrant was found and the man was arrested. The officer also found a glass pipe with methamphetamines, so the man was also charged with drug possession. A Utah trial court threw out the charges, reasoning that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to order the man to produce his identification.

The Utah Supreme Court reasoned that if an officer asks a passenger to voluntarily provide their identification, this would be permissible under the Fourth Amendment.

Passenger Rights in Michigan: is Michigan a Stop and ID State?

While this reasoning may be applicable in Michigan, many people stopped by the police may not realize that they may refuse to provide identification when the police ask for it. The officer may request your identification or request to search you. You may decline the officer’s requests. Unless the officer has probable cause or reasonable suspicion, they cannot force you to submit.

There are also cases of searches of passengers in Michigan that the Michigan Supreme Court ruled to be unconstitutional.

Examples of Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion in Michigan

The ideas of “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” can sound ambiguous, as many laws surrounding crime are (hence the need for legal representation). Generally, some form of verifiable evidence must exist to establish probable cause in Michigan.

Reasonable suspicion occurs when reasonable observation reveals the likelihood of a recent, current, or future crime. Of course, if a police officer can prove reasonable belief, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime has occurred. That is still up to the court to prove.

A police officer cannot rely on their gut feeling, but they might be able to rely on their specialized training.

Does a Police Officer Have to Explain Their Reasonable Suspicion?

Yes, police officers are legally obligated to discuss the valid reasons behind any actions stemming from reasonable cause. If they fail to, there’s a good chance the courts will not take their side. If the judge still chooses to side with the police officer, an expert legal defense in Michigan can help establish insufficient probable cause.

How has the United States Supreme Court Ruled on Stop and Identify Laws?

The US Supreme Court has issued many rulings regarding “stop and identify” laws. One of the most well-known and influential cases is Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada (2004).

In this case, the Supreme Court upheld a Nevada law that required individuals to identify themselves to law enforcement officers during a Terry stop (an investigatory stop based on reasonable suspicion). The Court ruled that requiring a suspect to provide their name did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

We learn from Hiibel that while you generally have a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by police officers, the requirement to identify oneself to the police during a Terry stop is not considered a violation of those rights.

However, it’s important to note that the specific details and implications of “stop and identify” laws can vary from state to state (including in Nevada and Michigan), and there may be nuances in how these laws are applied in different jurisdictions. It’s always best to consult with a legal professional well-versed in Michigan law for advice specific to your situation.

What to do When Law Enforcement Officers Demand Identification Without Probable Cause

Note: this is just general advice. Every situation is different. Never threaten law enforcement officers, not even with lawsuits. It’s always best to avoid a potentially significant legal issue. Don’t take the chance of escalating a routine traffic stop to a greater criminal penalty.

  1. Remain Calm and Respectful: It’s crucial to stay calm and be respectful when interacting with law enforcement officers. Avoid escalating the situation.
  2. Asking for Clarification: You can ask the officer the reason for the request before you are legally obligated to provide identification. Remaining polite and non-confrontational is important.
  3. Knowing Your Rights: As we’ve said, in Michigan, as in the rest of the United States, you generally don’t have an obligation to provide identification unless you are operating a motor vehicle, in which case you are required to show a valid driver’s license if requested.
  4. Refusing Consent: If you believe you’re being asked for identification without reasonable cause, you can choose to refuse. However, be aware that resisting or obstructing an officer without legal justification can lead to further complications. If you are illegally forced to provide identification, it’s easier (and more productive) to fight for your rights in the court of law than to argue with police officers on the street.
  5. Recording the Encounter: If it’s safe and legal to do so, consider recording the encounter with your phone. This can provide evidence of the interaction if needed later. This is also one reason why dashboard cameras are recommended.
  6. Seek Legal Advice: If you feel your rights have been violated, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney who can provide guidance based on the specific circumstances. Our Michigan legal center regularly (and successfully) represents
  7. Filing a Complaint: If you believe your rights were violated, you may choose to file a complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or a civilian oversight board if one exists in your area. Local governments don’t always follow ID laws precisely, so effective legal representation can help guide you through this process.

Remember, laws can change, and specific situations may vary. It’s always best to consult with a legal professional who is familiar with current Michigan law for the most accurate advice.

Partnering with the Michigan Criminal Defense Experts

Unexpected situations come up on the road. It can be difficult to know when your rights as a passenger or driver have been violated. If you have been charged with a crime on the road, you may benefit from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assert constitutional defenses. If we can prove that your rights were violated, we may have your entire legal case dismissed. Contact the legal experts at Aldrich Legal Services to discuss your case.