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Do you have to produce your ID as a passenger in a car?

Most people may not have the experience of being “ordered” to produce identification to a police officer. Most do so voluntarily in a show of deference to law enforcement, or to avoid further confrontation or an escalation of the situation.

The difference between an officer “asking” for something and “ordering” compliance is often a fine line distinction, but can have life-changing implications. The story of a Utah man who was charged and convicted of a crime after an officer asked for identification exemplifies this. 

The man was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation. The officer who stopped the vehicle asked the man for his identification and ran a background check. The officer found that the man had a warrant for his arrest. During a subsequent search of the man’s person, the officer found a glass pipe with methamphetamine. He was then charged with and convicted of drug possession.

The man challenged his conviction, arguing that the officer did not have probable cause to order him to produce his identification because he had no reasonable suspicion that he had committed, or was about to commit, a crime. A trial court judge agreed, but the Utah Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that the officer did not violate the man’s constitutional rights because the man “voluntarily” provided his identification.

While this ruling may not carry much weight under Kentucky law, it is a reminder of what constitutional defenses may be available for those charged with crimes if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

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