Many states have ‘stop and identify’ legislation. Under these statutes, if a police officer reasonably thinks that someone has committed an illegal action, the officer may hold that individual and ask for identification. A person who refuses to present identification commits the offense of refusing an officer’s legal command. 

Without such reasonable suspicion, nonetheless, demand for identification may be unlawful. Drivers who are required to present an ID may need to comply as well. Laws in several places compel drivers who are pulled over for speeding and similar violations to give identification when an officer asks it.


Statues such as the ‘stop and identify’ legislation exist in various U.S. states, allowing police to require persons they reasonably suspect of criminal activity to reveal their names under certain circumstances. Even in these states, a person is not forced to furnish identification if there is no reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is going to be committed.

Unreasonable searches and seizures are prohibited under the 4th Amendment, which also stipulates that warrants must be backed by solid evidence. This decision by the Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio (1968) affirmed that police officers may briefly arrest and pat down suspects for weapons when they have reasonable suspicion of their involvement in a crime. It was determined by the Supreme Court in 2004 in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada that laws requiring suspects to provide their identities during a legal Terry stop did not violate the Fourth Amendment.


Some ‘stop and identify’ laws, on the other hand, violate suspects’ due process by being imprecise about how they must identify themselves. Kolender v. Lawson (1983), for instance, the Court overturned as unduly broad California legislation requiring ‘credible and trustworthy’ identification. A suspect may refuse to reveal his or her identity under the Fifth Amendment if they have a reasonable concern that doing so might lead to his or her incrimination. As stated in the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, citizens have the right to be protected against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures of their ‘persons, homes, documents and things.’ 

One of the most important questions in a Fourth Amendment case is the reasonableness of the police action; relevant variables in a consideration of reasonableness include both the indignity and time spent conducting the search. Fourth Amendment intrusions are judged on the basis of three factors: [A.] the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, [B.] its advancement of public interest, and [C.] the severity of the interference with individual liberty. Courts use a balancing test to determine whether a given Fourth Amendment intrusion seems to be reasonable.

If people are pulled over by the police for no reason other than to ‘ascertain his identification and the questionable circumstances surrounding his presence overseas,’ they would be entitled to be held under Nevada’s ‘stop-and-identify’ legislation, which is at issue in Hiibel. Reasonable and articulated suspicion of criminal activity is required by law, and the individual held must ‘identify oneself,’ but he or she is not obligated to answer any more inquiries from the police. According to the state’s statute, ‘identity’ just means declaring the person’s name, according to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Twenty-three additional states have identical legislation. Other states (such as Texas and Oregon) have enacted similar rules for motorists alone.


It is a New York City Police Department practice to briefly hold, interrogate, and sometimes search citizens and suspected criminals on the street for weapons and contraband known as the stop-question-and-frisk program, or stop-and-frisk. The Terry stop, as it’s called elsewhere in the country, maybe found here under the name of the stop-and-frisk. Criminal process law section 140.50 contains the policy’s guidelines, which are based on the Supreme Court’s Terry v. Ohio ruling in the United States.

In the United States, a Terry stop permits the police to temporarily hold a person if they have grounds to suspect they are involved in illegal conduct. The criterion for making an arrest is probable cause, not reasonable suspicion. 

Stop and frisk is the term used when police stop and search a pedestrian. Traffic stops are when police pull over a car and conduct a traffic investigation. A pretextual stop is when the police pull over a car for a minor infraction in order to look into other possible criminal conduct. Stops on a bus are subject to additional regulations.

In spite of several Supreme Court decisions defining the relationship between police and the Fourth Amendment in America, Congress has yet to set a standard for police conduct. State legislators and judges have taken action, and some localities have created legislation to address these concerns. Due to the difficulty in proving unconscious prejudice, current standards surrounding the legality of Terry stops fail to take this into consideration. As a result, the system often legitimizes discriminatory actions based on race. 


In the United States, interactions between police and others fall into three general categories: consensual (‘contact’ or ‘conversation’), detention (often called a Terry stop, after Terry v. Ohio,) or arrest. ‘Stop and identify’ laws pertain to detentions. In Terry v. Ohio, the balancing test behavior is shown in a more complex manner since police possessed reasonable suspicion in the defendant. An officer frisked the accused after seeing suspicious behavior and detained him when he found firearms in his possession. The Supreme Court agreed on writ of certiorari that the officer had reasonable suspicions that the defendant was planning a robbery and would be armed. The defendant’s rights were balanced against the government’s interest in crime prevention and police protection, which was taken into consideration by the Court. However, in spite of the significant privacy invasion, the Court finally decided that the frisk served the purpose of neutralizing a danger to police and members of the public.

Different obligations apply to drivers of motor vehicles, who generally are required by state vehicle codes to present a driver’s license to police upon request.

Having ‘specific and articulable facts that suggest the individual be stopped is or is going to engage in criminal behavior gives police reasonable suspicion to make a stop. Officers have a lot of leeways when it comes to stopping citizens since they are seldom supervised. The ‘totality of the circumstances determines whether the suspicion is warranted. The Supreme Court ruled that the word ‘reasonable suspicion’ should be considered on a case-by-case basis since it is so broad. Often, it is based on a collection of circumstances that, taken individually, would not be sufficient to warrant a halt.

Suspicion must be directed at a specific individual. When determining whether or whether a stop is necessary, police officers rely heavily on situational variables based on illegal activity. In other words, if they see someone acting strangely or breaking the law, they will intervene. 


A police officer may approach anybody at any moment and ask them questions. A simple chat may be the goal, although authorities may suspect criminal activity but lack ‘specific and articulable evidence’ to warrant detention or arrest, and hope to learn this information during interrogation. There is no obligation on the part of the person being contacted to identify himself or answer any further inquiries, and the person is free to leave at any moment. 


When circumstances make it seem unlikely that a person has the freedom to depart, that individual is said to be held.

People may be temporarily detained if the authorities have reasonable suspicions that they’ve done, are committing, or will commit a crime. This power is specifically granted in several state legislatures. It was decided in Terry that police may check for weapons in a restricted way (known as ‘frisking’) if they have reasonable suspicions that the individual being arrested is in fact armed and dangerous.

Officers are required to have reasonable suspicion before holding someone, but they are not obligated to tell the individual what their suspicions are. Only if the suspect is apprehended and the propriety of the stop is contested in court would the officer have to state his suspicions.

A Terry stop inmate may be questioned by police, but they are not obligated to answer any questions.  A person arrested under Terry’s circumstances must identify themselves to authorities and in certain instances offer extra information, although many states have ‘stop and identify’ statutes that demand this.

For a long time before Hiibel, the question of whether a person might be detained and charged for refusing to give their identity remained unanswered. The federal circuit courts of appeal divided authority on this issue and the U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to examine the subject.] A prisoner was not needed to provide written identity in Hiibel, the Court suggested but might meet the requirement simply by mentioning his or her name. The reluctance to identify oneself may be taken into account together with other criteria in order to determine if there is probable cause for an arrest under several ‘stop and identify’ legislation.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of requiring a prisoner to submit information outside their identity as of February 2011. The only information a detained individual is obliged to disclose is their entire name in certain areas, such as Arizona.


Simply being suspected of criminal behavior is all it takes to warrant a person’s arrest and subsequent incarceration. For an arrest, a police officer must have reason to suspect the suspect of a crime. Police in certain jurisdictions are required to tell the person they want to arrest and the reason they are doing so. However, it is not always clear when detention turns into an arrest. After an arrest, authorities have the right to conduct a search of the suspect, their residence, and the surrounding area.

A detained person’s need to identify themselves may be governed by the jurisdiction where the arrest takes place. A Miranda warning must be given to someone who has been arrested and the police want to interrogate them about their Fifth Amendment rights to keep quiet. Although some states have laws that require an arrested person to give their name and other biographical information, some state courts have held that refusal to give one’s name constitutes obstructing a public officer, it is unclear whether ‘stop and identify’ laws could compel giving one’s name after being arrested. A person who is detained but refuses to provide their identity has little prospect of being released quickly.

An individual may thus be arrested by a police officer who personally saw them violate any state statute, city ordinance, or federal law. Police arrest powers vary depending on the seriousness of the offense. However, the officer must actually have seen the violation. The police may not arrest and take anybody into custody unless they fail to disclose their identity, refuse to sign the citation, or have previously failed to appear in court or pay a fee on a similar crime if the charge is a small misdemeanor for which only a fine is available (not time in prison).

Unless individuals have an outstanding warrant or a long history of failure to appear in court, an officer can generally only arrest them for [A.] a misdemeanor committed in the officer’s presence;  [B.] their medical or mental state may cause them to harm themselves or others; [C.] if the offense is domestic violence or the officer is concerned the individual may harm another person; [D.] the individual fails to identify themselves by giving their name and date of birth. A police officer may arrest anyone and search their belongings if they refuse to identify themselves.

Even though the police officer did not personally witness the specific individual commit the offense, the person might be arrested for a felony (a crime for which prison time is an option) if the officer has reason to suspect they still committed it. If they are found guilty, the court system (not the police) will decide whether or not the officer’s belief was reasonable. Whether or not the person is aware of a warrant for their arrest, they may be arrested. A warrant that has already been issued cannot be revoked by the police. The individual specified on the warrant must be arrested and the warrant must be served. 

An arrest warrant is a legal document that instructs the police or sheriff to arrest and detain someone. It is issued by a judge or a court clerk. No special format is necessary for this content. When this person is arrested, the arresting officer does not have to have the warrant in hand. After they have been arrested, however, the officer has a legal obligation to show them the warrant and provide them with a copy.

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1. Hiibel v. Nevada, U.S. Sup. Ct. 2004

2. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)

3.  Supra note 1

4. Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352,

5. ‘Police ‘Pretext’ Traffic Stops Need to End, Some Lawmakers Say.’ Police ‘Pretext’ Traffic Stops Need to End, Some Lawmakers Say | The Pew Charitable Trusts, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/09/03/police-pretext-traffic-stops-need-to-end-some-lawmakers-say. 

6.  § 140.50 Temporary questioning of persons in public places; search for weapons.

In addition to the authority provided by this article for making an arrest without a warrant, a police officer may stop a person in a public place located within the geographical area of such officer’s employment when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct.

Any person who is a peace officer and who provides security services for any court of the unified court system may stop a person in or about the courthouse to which he is assigned when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct.

When upon stopping a person under circumstances prescribed in subdivisions one and two a police officer or court officer, as the case may be, reasonably suspects that he is in danger of physical injury, he may search such person for a deadly weapon or any instrument, article or substance readily capable of causing serious physical injury and of a sort not ordinarily carried in public places by law-abiding persons. If he finds such a weapon or instrument, or any other property possession of which he reasonably believes may constitute the commission of a crime, he may take it and keep it until the completion of the questioning, at which time he shall either return it, if lawfully possessed, or arrest such person.

7. The United States Supreme Court held that where: (1) a Police Officer observes unusual conduct by a Subject; (2) The Subject’s conduct leads the Officer reasonably to conclude that criminal activity may be afoot and that the Subject may be armed and presently dangerous; (3) the Officer identifies himself as a policeman; (4) the Officer makes reasonable inquiries; and (5) Nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel the Officer’s reasonable fear for safety, the Officer may conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of the Subject in an attempt to discover weapons, and that such a search is a reasonable search under the Fourteenth Amendment, so that any weapons seized may properly be introduced in evidence.

8. Additionally, the officer’s personal beliefs and the decision-making paradigm in which they work influences their choice. Systemic racial profiling is possible.

9. However, a person may typically decide if the conversation is consensual by asking ‘Am I free to leave?’ Police are not compelled to advise a person that they can reject to answer questions and continue about their business


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