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Officers Can Request Identification from Everyone in Vehicle During a Traffic Stop

I am sometimes asked to agree that passengers do not have to show identification.  In Georgia and most other states, that is not a correct statement of the law.  So, I end up disagreeing with the proposition.

I can understand why people may feel that way about it.  It seems like a passenger is not related to the purpose of the traffic stop, so they should not be drug into an interaction between the driver and the officer.  That is based on a very limited view of the traffic stop.

The mission of a traffic stop is to address the violation and to attend to related safety concerns during the stop.  When the traffic stop occurs, it is often a single officer and two or more persons alone on the side of the road.  To protect his or her safety, the officer can make certain ordinary inquiries related to the stop.  Those can certainly include an inspection of the driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance and a computerized records check of that information.  The requirement to produce identification and a computerized records check of that information is not considered a search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. 

There are a number of things that can be required to allow safe completion of the traffic stop so long as they do not unduly divert from the mission of the stop.  This can include obtaining of identification of anyone in the vehicle.  The theory is that if someone in the vehicle has outstanding warrants, that can be a safety concern for the officer.  The Georgia Supreme Court has held that officers may request and obtain identification from passengers as a part of a traffic stop.  State v. Allen, 298 Ga. 1 (2015). 

Likewise, officers are permitted to inquire about the presence of weapons in the car in order to assist in protecting officer safety. 

As part of a traffic stop, an officer may require a driver, already lawfully stopped, to exit the vehicle. Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 US 106 (1977).  Passengers may also be required to exit the vehicle.  Maryland v. Wilson, 519 US 408 (1997). 

These things may be done as a matter of routine and do not require any articulation of subjective fear by the officer.  They must be done in a reasonable amount of time.  The officer cannot stretch this process out to expand the duration of the traffic stop to allow some other investigation to proceed.  The duration of the traffic stop must be reasonable based on the reason for the stop unless probable cause develops to expand the investigation.   

In addition, OCGA §  40-5-29 requires a licensee to display his or license on demand of a law enforcement officer.  This certainly requires a driver to produce the license, but the subsection does not seem limited to licensed drivers. 

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

Comments

Mel Range

Posted Jul 24, 2021 at 17:14:54

Your thought seems logical but based solely on the case you provided as background, your logic in regards to cops being able to ask passengers to identify or provide identification is flawed. In State v Allen (2015), the driver and passenger had already vacated the truck before the cop attempted to stop them. At this point they both were considered pedestrians. The cop had reasonable suspicion in regards to Couch, however, he had no reasonable suspicion to suspect Allen of any criminal activity being afoot and without reasonable suspicion, although the cop could ask for identification, Allen was under no obligation to respond, this making the cop’s detainment of Allen to be unlawful. Thus making the search, although they obtained consent from Allen beforehand, the lower court sided with Allen on her suppression motion that made the fruits of the search inadmissible. Bottom line, without reasonable suspicion or probable cause a cop can ask a pedestrian to identify but he’s under no obligation to do so until reasonable or probable cause has been established.

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Posted Jul 26, 2021 at 05:27:21

Cunningham’s Law says that the best way to get the right answer on the internet is to post a wrong answer. In this case, my answer is not wrong but may be incomplete. No, I did not address the situation where a passenger ceases to be a passenger and becomes a pedestrian.

As well, the officer can always ask.

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Paul Hinton

Posted Aug 02, 2021 at 16:11:22

I think this is wrong….a person who is simply in the car during a trafic stop is no way involved in a simple traffic offence…..this is simply a way for police to delve into a person’s life……and continue their repution of hi-way piraite..

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Mel Range

Posted Aug 11, 2021 at 04:54:11

After further review, I viewed the wrong case. And the cop was justified in conducting the dog sniff cause he hadn’t given Scott and Allen their licenses back. However, if Allen never complies with the cop’s request for identification as he was a passenger and the cop had no reason to suspect any criminal activity had already been a foot, currently a foot or about to be a foot on Allen’s part, the dog sniff would have been unreasonable as its highly likely that the cop would’ve given Scott his license back and issued the written/verbal warning. Case and point, a cop can ask a passenger for id all he wants but the onus solely lies with the passenger(s) to know that they’re under no obligation to oblige the cop’s request for identification as it’s not a lawful order unless the cop can articulate his reasonable suspicion for doing so.

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I Am

Posted Aug 27, 2021 at 15:04:52

I still see people Rights Are volulated, All this is a second law to the Constitution. I’m Just Saying. SMIB

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Mike

Posted Sep 02, 2021 at 19:21:10

The 4th and 5th amendments, along with a plethora of well-established case law, disagree with you. This isn’t even open to interpretation. You are flat out wrong, and I hope nobody makes the mistake of hiring you to defend them from overzealous police

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Posted Sep 03, 2021 at 07:37:28

You and some others seem to read my statement that officers can request identifying information from passengers as meaning that passengers are required to provide that identification or to identify themselves. That is not what I wrote. I have prospective clients and clients who are under the impression that it is unconstitutional for the officer to even ask for a passenger’s identity. That is not the case.

There is no question that when a traffic stop occurs that the driver and any passengers are being detained. That detention is only constitutional so long as the duration is not unduly prolonged without probable cause to believe that other violations are occurring.

Within the duration of a reasonable detention, the officer can make conversation and ask questions and is permitted to ask for identification. Again, the person is not required to provide identification or identifying information. But, failure to do so may have consequences of its own. The federal and Georgia case law is pretty clear that those requests are permitted and that officers may run checks on those identities.

Every case is fact-dependent, but is is beyond dispute that in the United States of America, officers conducting a traffic stop can request identification from passengers and can order them out of the vehicle. The case law is referenced above. There is no U.S. Supreme Court or Georgia Supreme Court case saying that passengers may never be asked for identification. Forget the “plethora;” give me the one case.

The question beyond that is whether an individual should give identification. That answer is heavily fact-dependent. It is not always yes.

The question beyond that one is whether anyone being detained by the police should given any information beyond the bare minimum. The answer there is simpler, no. Anything you say beyond the bare minimum may and likely will be used against you.

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Happy

Posted Sep 04, 2021 at 15:22:36

So I have a ? Can’t a officer just simply say in any case that there is a smell of marijuana in the car and that automatically gives them reason to say you could possibly be in possession there for I need you i.d. …then what if the passengers response is there are no drugs in the car your free to search the vehicle to make sure the crime your suspected of is in fact false and the passenger refuses to identify his self because he knows no law is being broken …if a person can prove that the crime they are being accused of is not true why should they have to present a i.d.

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Posted Sep 07, 2021 at 05:36:18

My long time complaint about “odor of marijuana” is exactly what you describe. It is basically “magic words” which allow the officer to search the vehicle. An owner or driver can consent to the search of the car. A passenger can consent to a search of their personal effects, etc.

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Tanya J

Posted Sep 14, 2021 at 16:40:51

If you’re a passenger in the motor vehicle and the driver is stopped by a law enforcement officer, you DO NOT have to identify yourself in the State of Georgia.

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Larry

Posted Sep 15, 2021 at 02:35:53

Well never give consent to search your car just say no u don’t have my consent to search. . Caught on film was a cop throwing a bag of dope on the guys back seat thanks to Dash cam footage the cop was fired as all seen what kind of civil serpent yea SNAkE he was .now law suite is filed .just say no I don’t consent like I say dash cam saved the day he did not no until it was to late .live stream is best.

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Posted Sep 15, 2021 at 05:27:24

That is true, and I have never said otherwise, but it may lead to additional law enforcement investigation and detention. Whether that investigative detention can be justified would be a question for a different day. What I wrote was that law enforcement can “ask” for identification. The courts have justified it under officer safety. So, failure to identify oneself may elevate those safety concerns.

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Don

Posted Oct 01, 2021 at 20:25:42

Hello Sean,

I believe the confusion some people are having is the verbiage you used in the first few paragraphs of your article. What you wrote does suggest that if a vehicle stop is made based upon a violation committed by the driver only, then passengers are required to identify to police.

You then clarified your position correctly to say that officers may ASK passengers for their ID during a traffic stop, but they are not required to identify themselves (unless, of course, there is articulable reasonable suspicion of crime on the passengers).

Bottom line, passengers do not have to provide their identification to police when the stop only involves a violation by the driver.

The officer can ASK passengers to ID, and if they do, the courts consider this a voluntary action on the part of the passenger(s).

See:
Stuffelbeam v. Harris (2008)
U.S. v. Landeros (2019)
Corona v. City of Clovis (2020)

Finally, if an officer takes a lawful refusal of a passenger to identify and uses it as a reason to further detain and investigate that passenger, then the officer better have developed additional reasonable suspicion or probable cause of crime to do so.

Thanks Sean!

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DB McCrea

Posted Oct 03, 2021 at 16:09:23

You wrote: “The Georgia Supreme Court has held that officers may request AND OBTAIN identification from passengers as a part of a traffic stop. State v. Allen, 298 Ga. 1 (2015).” Nowhere do you clarify that an otherwise innocent passenger is not required to surrender their personal information to law enforcement. This ongoing belief that the 4th Amendment is temporarily suspended inside a motor vehicle is as pervasive as it is wrongheaded. Do better, councilor.

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Posted Oct 04, 2021 at 06:35:24

It is not a clarification. The premise of the article is that there is a mistaken belief that law enforcement officers are not authorized to request identification from passengers and have them exit the vehicle. That is a belief that can cause significant problems for people who believe that a constitutional violation has occurred when one of those requests is made of them. That can cause behavior which can bring unnecessary trouble to them. The brief article speaks to that question. I will clarify that my intention in summarizing Allen as stating “obtain” was to mean that they can receive such identification from those that provide it. They can likewise run a computer check of those identifications to determine if there are outstanding warrants, etc.

Nowhere did I suggest that anyone was required to provide such identification. There may indeed be situations where a person may determine that it is in their interest not to identify themselves. They should not expect that decision to be consequence-free.

While there remain some Fourth Amendment protections in the vehicle context, the state and federal courts have done a fairly good job of chipping away at them.

During any interaction with law enforcement, a person should not volunteer incriminating information and should limit the interaction as much as reasonably possible.

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Matt Price

Posted Oct 17, 2021 at 01:48:17

Mr. Sean Black, I hope to be able to bounce a couple related questions off you! This happened personally, 7:30 am on a Saturday. I am a VA resident and this happened 10 miles away in TN. I was driving, got pulled over for a taillight. I had a drivers license, although not on my person. I immediately offered my full name, age, birthday, address and social. He pulled out a notepad and wrote it all down, I offered all of that to try to show that I had nothing to hide and to prove who I was in the easiest way possible for him! He comes back some time later and says the VA system is down and I need to step out of the truck…..he wanted to search! He put me in handcuffs for safety lol And sat me on the walk. He had his backup get my passenger(50+ yr old female TN resident) out of the truck to be arrested…..get this….for a warrant out of….VA…..for an unpaid ticket. I asked him how did he know about the traffic ticket warrant if the VA system was down…..which he didn’t like and I was arrested for driving without a license….. it’s over now but what should/could I have done?

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Posted Oct 20, 2021 at 09:48:01

Only thing that I can point to is having your license on your person if you are driving.

Beyond that, I do not see anything additional you could have done.

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Georgia Guardian

Posted Oct 24, 2021 at 20:54:19

So if you are on public property recording the police and they ask you for ID and you refuse because you have not broken the law can you be charged with loitering? Furthermore what’s the chances of having that charge dismissed at a prelim because they officer gave you no chance to explain why you are their and no chance to dispel any alarm?

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Posted Oct 25, 2021 at 05:11:28

This is a completely different situation than discussed in my article.

There is a lot of good information on the Photography Is Not a Crime website as well as a number of other sources about the questions you raise. Loitering is a crime which is often unconstitutionally vague. In general, it typically involves staying in a location for no good purpose. Watching a police-citizen encounter is neither a lack of purpose or a bad purpose. Some reasonable restrictions can be imposed regarding where one is during such an event in terms of safety concerns. Every aspect of such an encounter is likely describable in terms of shades of gray with no bright line rules as to what you can and cannot do and what officers can or cannot do.

So long as you are not interfering with legal actions of law enforcement, your recording of the event should not be a crime.

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Stanley Morton

Posted Oct 31, 2021 at 13:08:40

Like most of the above comments, I took your article to imply, that a passenger had to supply identification when asked during a routine traffic stop. I mean, this is (was) red state ga.
Glad others spoke up and a clarification outlined.
This has happened to me, as well as a request to search vehicle. Now that I have a better understanding of my rights, I intend to exercise them. Forthwith.

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Milton Mecca

Posted Nov 06, 2021 at 02:48:10

My question is if a cop pulls you over and states the reason is for modification to your vehicle can the cop order you to assist them in inspecting your car to check for illegal modifications? For example, the cop says to open the hood so he can look under and threatens you with arrest if you don’t open the hood as well as assist with turning lights and blinkers on? Thank you.

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Posted Nov 08, 2021 at 06:23:06

I have to admit that this is a question that has not been put to me previously. Certainly, in the context of commercial vehicle stops, such inspections can be done.

OCGA 40-8-7(d) provides that: " Any vehicle suspected of being operated in violation of this article may be the subject of an inspection conducted by any law enforcement officer who has reason to believe such violation is occurring, without the necessity of obtaining a warrant to permit such inspection." The article referenced is that one dealing with equipment violations.

Under subsection © of OCGA 40-8-7 it may be a misdemeanor to fail to allow an inspection.

Going further into your question, you ask whether you are required to do things to facilitate the officer’s inspection. To the extent that such actions may tend to incriminate you, you have a right under the Georgia Constitution, not the federal constitution, to refuse to perform acts that tend to incriminate you.

You should consider that an unsafe vehicle may be impounded and forbidden from operating on the public roads.

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DJ

Posted Nov 13, 2021 at 05:45:21

I understand the premise and intent but I feel a lot of confusion is coming simply from the precise phrasing used in head of the post.

“I am sometimes asked to agree that passengers do not have to show identification. In Georgia and most other states, that is not a correct statement of the law. So, I end up disagreeing with the proposition.”

Maybe it’s not exactly fair to read so much into it but breaking this down into pieces
“I am sometimes asked to agree that…” – following this will be what you are sometimes asked to agree with, specifically being “passengers do not have to show identification.” (There is no mention of officers or request in this sentence).

It is followed by “In Georgia and most other states, that -” (that can reasonably be assumed to mean ’passengers do not have to show identification") “-is not a correct statement of the law.”

So coupling these two together; with the lack of any mention of officers (and by extension officer request), one could read this as “In Georgia and most other states, it is not a correct statement of the law that passengers do not have to show identification” (and my understanding of law does not give enough to say that the opposite must be true; however, a less informed but reasonable person might take it that way).

I understand your post is meant to be taken in totality, but I even with that in mind this still feels a bit poorly worded due to the content it has and is missing (since you’ve repeatedly clarified that this is not your position/claim, and that you’re specifically aiming for clarification regarding the constitutional legality of an officer simply requesting it in the first place; since the other take away (in addition to the point you’re trying to make) is that passengers legally do not have to show identification (the officer may ask for it – but the passenger is not required by law to provide it).

I could be completely incorrect all this and if so I do apologize and would appreciate any clarification or if you disagree with it.

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Posted Nov 17, 2021 at 05:37:38

I stand by my wording, but I do not object to the critique. Once again, law enforcement officers are allowed to ask a passenger for identification. The passenger can either provide it or not. Not providing it is likely to lead to negative attention from the officer. The passenger has to judge whether that negative attention is better or worse than providing identification.

After the fact, a defense lawyer can assess whether or not the officer has impinged on constitutional protections. That is a complicated question of law and fact and does not lend itself to easy answers.

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