If you are involved in a traffic stop where the officer can not provide you with a crime you have committed or a ordinance you have broken is the officer allowed (legally) to ask/demand your id?

According to RCW 46.61.020, during a traffic stop the driver of the car must provide license, registration and proof of insurance to an officer. And for those who have heard that you can keep your window up and press your ID against the glass, I wouldn’t recommend it. It is unlawful for a driver to refuse an officer’s request to take ID for inspection during a traffic stop.

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    Remember that a driver's license is more than just an identification document; it is evidence that you are licensed to drive a car. Police can made different demands of someone who is driving a car than of someone who isn't. For example, a passport won't satisfy a police officer who has asked a driver for his or her license, but in the context of a pedestrian being legally required to show identification under suspicion of a crime, a passport would suffice.
    – phoog
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 19:57

2 Answers 2


We need to assume that the stop was legal (not a high hurdle to clear), that is, there was some reason to stop you. Even so, following Utah v. Strieff, police don't actually have to have a reasonable suspicion to stop you and if in the course of an ID check they discover that you have a warrant out for your arrest, the arrest is still legal. So if the police stop you, RCW 46.61.020(1) says:

It is unlawful for any person while operating or in charge of any vehicle to refuse when requested by a police officer to give his or her name and address and the name and address of the owner of such vehicle, or for such person to give a false name and address, and it is likewise unlawful for any such person to refuse or neglect to stop when signaled to stop by any police officer or to refuse upon demand of such police officer to produce his or her certificate of license registration of such vehicle, his or her insurance identification card, or his or her vehicle driver's license or to refuse to permit such officer to take any such license, card, or certificate for the purpose of examination thereof or to refuse to permit the examination of any equipment of such vehicle or the weighing of such vehicle or to refuse or neglect to produce the certificate of license registration of such vehicle, insurance card, or his or her vehicle driver's license when requested by any court. Any police officer shall on request produce evidence of his or her authorization as such.

There is no law that says "you have to provide ID only if accused of a crime", or "police can pull you over only if you are suspected of a crime". Various traffic infractions will get you pulled over but are not crimes; random sobriety checks are legal. However, note that the requirement to provide ID applies to the operator. There is no law requiring citizens to carry identification papers (but there is a law requiring a vehicle operator to carry a specific form of ID). In some states there are "stop and identify" laws which allow police to demand ID from a person suspected of a crime, but Washington does not have such a law.

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    This question is highly dependent on the state. I am assuming Washington since the OP provides a quote of that state's law. However, in some states, like Texas, if a person is not operating a motor vehicle and is, say, just walking down a sidewalk, then there is no requirement for that person to have an ID, and furthermore, a person does not have to ID themselves unless he is actually being arrested. Also the ID can consist of simply stating your name, address and possibly date of birth verbally.
    – mark b
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 22:21

It depends. There are two questions: 1) Must a crime have been committed by you personally to make demanding your ID a lawful order? No. 2) Are there cases where demanding ID is not a lawful order? Yes. Just reasonable suspicion of a crime connected to you in some way (e.g., you match a vague description, or are near a crime scene) is enough to stop you legally, and so demanding ID in that case is a lawful order.

But, if there was no reasonable suspicion of a crime to justify the stop in the first place, then the stop was not lawful, and so demanding ID is not a lawful order either. That being said, the cops are not obligated to disclose the reason for the stop, so just because they don't explain themselves to you doesn't mean there is no valid excuse.


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