What happens if you refuse to say ANTHING at all when you are arrested?

I have always wondered what would happen if you refused to talk at all if you were arrested in the U.S. Let us assume that you have no I.D. on you whatsoever and your fingerprints are not on record anywhere because it is a first offense. What if you just play mute for weeks or even months? What would they do with you?

With no ID, in most states they can arrest you for vagrancy, AFAIK.

I think you’d end up in the mental wing of the state hospital.

They stick you in a cell with “Bubba.” Guaranteed ice breaker :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Was your hypothetical arrestee actually caught committing a crime?

If so, I believe that, statement or not, he would be charged.

That is certainly what happened to this guy.

Although he didn’t say absolutely nothing, the gunman in that case wouldn’t tell police his name, or any details about the crime. He was originally arraigned under the name “John X”

The police managed to build their case against him without any help from him, and eventually he was convicted and sent to jail.

(They did eventually find out his name, by the way.)

I would say that the police are fairly used to dealing with non-cooperation from the people they arrest.

Both Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh refused to speak when arrested for minor traffic violations. The Police can hold you for 24 hours and run your fingerprints. Which explains why Bundy and McVeigh kept their months shut.

IANAL, but IIRC the US Supreme Court has ruled that suspects may be held for up to 72 hours without being charged. More precisely if I remember the ruling it was that 72 hours in police custody without charge did not constitute an “unreasonable seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. I’m not sure if the police can take your fingerprints without your consent unless you’re actually under arrest. Any Fourth Amendment experts out there?

There was a case in Beverly Hills back in the '80s (I think) where a black man was arrested for not providing identification to police when he was caught strolling around the neighbourhood. He was doing nothing wrong; he was just exercising his right to walk around. The Supreme Court (or a Supreme Court – I don’t remember too many specifics) decided that he had every right to walk around in Beverly Hills and to not carry identification. Unfortunately, I have ben unable to find a cite; but I do remember it.

This .pdf document says:

When this happens to me, sort of, I usually just give them my name & address & that’s it. The reason is because I can’t be sure what I say with my mouth is what they hear, since I can’t hear myself talk. They never take me in, they might search me (without asking first-which is dumb as they don’t know what might be in my pockets).

Shagnasty, you could of course, just call your local police dept info line & Im sure they would let you know what they do in your city. Then let us know.

SCOTUS has held that if you are arrested without a warrant, you must recieve a determnation of probable cause from a magistrate promptly and without unreasonable delay. Generally a hearing within 48 hours will comply with this, although if the police can show a bona fide emergency or some other extraordinary circumstance they may take longer. With or without a warrant, you would appear before a magistate within a reasonable time to be informed of the charges and have bail set. If you don’t post bail, you’ll sit there until your trial (in a felony case, a grand jury indictment is also needed), which must be “speedy” when the totality of the circumstances are evaluated.

Failure to identify yourself to an officer who is arresting/detaining/has reason to believe that you are a witness to a crime is a class C misdemeanor in Texas, but beyond that, you have the right to remain silent.

But the article I liked abouve goes on to say:

So even though the article is about stopping someone without probably cause, wouldn’t the same protections apply to a purported witness to a crime? i.e., Wouldn’t such a law be stricken down by SCOTUS?

As far as you know, eh? And how far would that be?

I am unaware of any state law that criminalizes walking around without ID as vagrancy. Please provide a citation.

Or stop posting answers in GQ that are wrong.

One of the two.


  • Rick

Is there really a reason to be uncivil?

From the California Penal code:

I’m not ready to do a survey of the 50 states, but Q.E.D.'s comment does seem so far off it deserved an attack.

I agree with you about the civility issue, P. P..

But i’m not so sure about your evidence. While your cite says that a person needs to identify him/herself to the police, it does not say that they have the carry identification. They are not the same thing, and my reading of the code suggests little more than that, if a cop questions you, you have to say who you are and why you are there.

Soo… what does meet the burden for vagrancy, if no ID doesn’t?

Actually, yes, possibly. I misstated that part. It’s not a crime to fail to identify you are detained or believed to be a witness to a crime, its a crime to falsely identify yourself. You don’t have to give them your name address, and DOB, but if you do it has to be the correct one. Good eye.

I believe this case involved someone up in Marin County actually. The plaintiff was an African-American man who wore his hair in dreadlocks, so the local police were likely just wary of him by his looks.

I shall look further.

Aha!, The case was Kolender v. Lawson 461 U.S. 352 (1983)

San Diego was where it happened.

Lawson was later arrested for a similar incident in Beverly Hills.

Pencil Pusher: I see "and"s in your cite. It does not appear that just being IDless is grounds for vagrancy charges. As the earlier SCOTUS postings on going IDless show, even if a statue were produced that said being IDless alone was grounds for vagrancy, it is unconstitutional and would not stand up in court.

Well, mhendo, my point was not so much to defend Q.E.D.'s accuracy, but to say it wasn’t too far afield.

However, assuming the added language in the CA law (“if the surrounding circumstances would indicate to a reasonable person that the public safety demands this identification”) would make the statute constitutional, the standard for arresting someone is probable cause.

Therefore, if a police officer stops me under that section, and I merely claim that I am Pencil Pusher, without offering any proof of identification, the officer may be able to arrest me. It would not surprise me if merely lacking identification (or refusing to show it) was enough to create probable cause that I was not correctly identifying myself. Once again, all this assumes I was doing something that “demands” that I identify myself.