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Do I Have to Identify Myself to Law Enforcement in New York?

If you have an encounter with law enforcement in New York, you must identify yourself when asked only in certain situations. Consequences for refusing to say who you are or provide identification generally only come into play if you are issued a summons, arrested, or reasonably suspected of a crime.

You also have the right to a criminal defense attorney if you are arrested or brought in for questioning. Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC offers free consultations to discuss your case on Long Island or the New York metropolitan area.

Stop and Identify Statutes

More than half of U.S. states have laws that allow the police to demand someone identify themselves if the police suspect the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

The specifics in the statutes vary by state. For example, Indiana requires that the person provide their date of birth in addition to their name and address. Some states have criminal penalties for anyone who refuses to comply with their ID laws.

In states without any similar law, a person questioned by law enforcement does not have to respond with any identifying information.

New York addresses when police can demand identification in Criminal Procedure Law §140.50:

“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.”

The neighboring states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have no general “stop and identify” statutes regarding police officers and other law enforcement.

Penalties for Failing to Provide Identifying Information

Police cannot demand a person’s name or address without good reason. However, refusing to identify yourself in required situations gives law enforcement the authority to detain you until your identity is established. Providing false identifying information can lead to a false personation charge.

False personation is a class B misdemeanor punishable by the following:

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Community service
  • Probation

While less serious than a felony, misdemeanor crimes are included in your criminal record.

When Carrying an ID Is Required

Having a physical ID on you is generally not required in New York or anywhere else in the country. However, there are certain scenarios in which an ID card is necessary.

You will need ID in the following circumstances:

  • When you are driving
  • When you are taking a commercial flight

Having an ID is helpful if you use your student Metrocard or live in a community where a property owner or manager has asked police to patrol for safety. Showing who you are and your right to be in certain locations can keep a situation from escalating.

NYPD Officers Must ID Themselves

The New York City Council passed the Right to Know Act in December 2017. Officers must provide their name, rank, and command. They must hand out business cards when there is no summons or arrest. The law went into effect in October 2018.

Call an Attorney Before Answering Questions

If you are stopped on the street by police and asked questions, ask if you are free to go. If they say yes, you are fully in your right to walk away. You do not have to be arrested for what you say to be used against you later. You do not have to be under arrest to have what you say later used against you. Ask to call your attorney if you are arrested or brought to the police station.

Our attorneys at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC can protect your rights and fight any potential charges. Secure skilled legal representation. Call (516) 218-5131 to discuss your case.