When Are You Required to Give the Police Your Name and Identification?

A Matter of Rights and Responsibilities

By the time most of us receive our driver’s licenses, we have been drilled on what to do when a police officer pulls us over. This includes providing our license and registration.

But the question remains: does Massachusetts law require you to give your name and identification documents to the police upon request? What if you are a passenger in a car? What if you are walking down the street when an officer asks who you are?

Massachusetts law leans towards protecting the right of persons to remain silent and to maintain their privacy, with only one notable exception.

Drivers of Vehicles

Only the drivers of vehicles are legally required to provide their names and driver’s licenses to police upon request.

Passengers

If you are a passenger in a car, you may assert your right to remain silent when asked for your name and identification—except perhaps if the officer is issuing you a citation for your behavior, such as not wearing a seatbelt.

Everyone Else

Passers-by on the street, people who are home when a warrant is served, and even persons under arrest are not required to provide their name or identification to the police. The right to refuse falls under the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination.

A note of caution, however: while you are not required to provide your information, it is a crime to provide false information. When in doubt, say “I am invoking my right to remain silent.” To determine whether you are under arrest or free to leave, ask “Am I free to go?” or “Am I being detained and if so, for what offense?”

Continue to politely but firmly alternate “I am invoking my right to remain silent” and “Am I free to go?” until you are either allowed to leave or taken into custody.

Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you are facing criminal charges, either in relation to a refusal to provide your name or another criminal charge, call our law office immediately. We are experienced and skilled defense attorneys with years of experience in providing active and effective defense representation. Call our office today to discuss your particular situation with us.

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