WHY do police compulsively ask for ID?

State I’m most familiar with is Texas, so yes I imagine cops may operate differently elsewhere.

In Texas cops almost compulsively ask for ID, from people not under arrest or driving. Passenger in a car stopped for speeding/traffic violation? Asked for ID. Guest at a house when your host calls the police to report a fight occuring next door? Police will show up and ask for ID from everyone. With someone when they call the police to report a traffic accident? Cops will show up and ask for your ID. Walking down the sidewalk when a cop randomly approaches, asks for ID.


Ok sorry but you get the point. What possible purpose does this serve? And if you refuse or honestly don’t have it they will threaten and get nasty towards you.
It is obviously some kind of department policy to do ID dragnets, for what warrants? It seems like a giant harassing waste of time that discouraged me from calling police period.

EDIT:Once because I read online you could request a copy of a police report I called a non-emergency number for HPD and asked how to go about it, the woman got immediately changed in tone and asked for my social security#. I said I’m not giving that out over the phone, she said ok a officer will come out and check your ID and talk to you about whatever concerns you have. I said forget it and hung up.

Almost every time I have been stopped they aks me too, Im also in Texas. Its the same when I have had to ever call them. I know they will take it to their car many times and run a check because I hear the dispatch say he/shes clear.

It is legal for a cop to demand ID from anyone, anywhere.

You are in Texas - it does not surprise me that they try to use the authority to create a police state.

I’d move. Really.

Warrant check? I’ve only encountered this in specific situations, not randomly.

To get a police report, all I know to do is go to the department in charge of that and pay the fee or whatever to get it. Calling 311 or whatever doesn’t seem terribly efficient but then I haven’t seen your local website.

This is going out of GQ territory quick.

[Moderator Note]

usedtobe, let’s refrain from political jabs in GQ. No warning issued.

General Questions Moderator

This is probably going to get a lot more opinions than facts, so let’s move it over to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

In New Mexico (right next door but far, far away from Texas), I haven’t had a cop ask for an ID except if they pulled me over and I was the driver. Your experience may indeed be a Texas thing.


That youtube video is in Texas and a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.

Well, grude, what that video shows is that the police ask for an ID, but you don’t have to show it to them. And yes, they do ask for it because it makes it easier for them. But then it’s not your task to make life easier for the police if you don’t want to. The guy not showing his ID in the video was not arrested or mistreated. So I can’t really build up any indignation over it.

I have never been stopped by police except when I’ve been driving.

What is going on that you are stopped by police when you are just walking around? I’m curious because it’s never happened to me. Are you just walking down the street and a cop comes up to you and asks for ID?

I’m from Illinois, but I spend a lot of time in Texas for for work. I’ve gotten pulled over in Texas several times. One of the times the officer was nice enough to tell me:

“We’re running your license to make sure you don’t have any outstanding tickets or arrest warrants in Texas”

Ugh, don’t like it, but the officers (Dallas area) that I’ve interacted with have at least been polite and friendly while they hold me for 20 minutes on the side of the road. :dubious:

…and nothing on my record, so they hold me for too long then tell me to be on my way.

But if it later turned out that you’d had somebody tied up in the trunk with the intent of adding them to your collection, and the officer might have put the pieces together if only… but didn’t ask the right questions, then it would be like “he/she didn’t do their job!”

The reason they ask is obvious. There have to be tens of thousands of active arrest wants at any given time. Google won’t give me an exact number, but I know it is huge.

In reality, except for major felonies, it may take the authorities months to years to never to ever get around to going to someone’s house in order to arrest them. Each time they send out a felony warrant arrest team costs a significant amount of money, and the risks aren’t 0. Obviously, people get jumpy when you try to break into their homes, and they may open fire.

So the way they catch these people is they wait until they have to present themselves in person somewhere and show their ID, or they check IDs at traffic stops and other stops. The cops may not want to go to your house if you have a warrant, but if you give them your ID and are standing right there, they can perform the arrest. Similarly, they have cops at the DMV and other locations in order to arrest people when they come in for license renewal, etc.

It’s legal for a cop to request anything he wants.

If you are not operating a motor vehicle, you are legally required to identify yourself when requested to do so by a cop, but this can be just a verbal identification (i.e. state your name out loud). You are not required to present any documentation of your ID. If you’re a passenger in a motor vehicle, you don’t need to carry ID, and if you have it on you, you don’t need to show it to an officer during a traffic (or any other kind of) stop.

If you are operating a motor vehicle, you are legally required to present a valid driver’s license unless you are operating a motor vehicle.

Note however that some cops are better informed than others about the limits of their authority. You may end up being subjected to significant inconvenience if you refuse to show a cop your license upon request. [url=http://www.michaelrighi.com/2007/09/01/arrested-at-circuit-city/]example here:[/url the author was arrested for refusing to show his driver’s license to a cop who was questioning him about a refusal to show his receipt to an officious store clerk. The author knew what he was getting into and was prepared to wage a war against the legal system, but ultimately settled for simple dismissal of the charges when he saw that his family was getting stressed out about it all.

Hiibel v Nevada

You have to identify yourself, but you don’t have to show the cop anything.

Hiibel is a prodigy of TERRY, therefore no RS to demand, no legal need to prove identity.

If I were a police officer and I was responding to any type of call, I would want to get the ID of everyone involved. This way my report would be accurate. I would know who was who, etc. If the incident ends up in court, I may be called to testify and I would want to be as accurate as possible.

Asking for ID is reasonable. Many people lie about who they are, even to the police. Seeking identification to verify a person’s statement is not unreasonable.

I was walking up a waterway that I assumed was a public right of way. A person who had a house along it said it was his property and I needed to go back the way I came (unable to pass), I told him I was walking in the waterway, he said he was a cop (unconfirmed), I proceeded, he ran down and to me threatened me with bodily harm, I stopped. He asked me for ID, since I was in the middle of a waterway in a bathing suit, I honestly said ‘I don’t have’. Funny thing is he apologized to me after I was heading back and around his property and back into this waterway.

Unfortunately, Terry or Hiibel are easily overcome by the police officers simply claiming that you or your vehicle had been described as suspected in some recent crime. If the need ever arose, they’d simply say they must have misunderstood the radio transmission.

Habeed beat me to it…a surprising number of otherwise upright citizens have municipal or traffic warrants for silly shit.

Pay your tickets, stupid.