Can police officers legally stop and ask you for your id (not driving, but cycling cross country) or question you about your travels (where are you going, why.. etc) if they cannot articulate any resonable suspicion ? If the above mentioned practice is illegal, and they make up funny excuses like "what if you fall into the ditch and die.. we need to know who to send the body to", would that be considered =mocking the law= ? Is it up to the states to decide what constitutes harassment? Or is there a federal law that protects regular mortals from cops? Thank you

marked as duplicate by BlueDogRanch, Nij, DPenner1, ohwilleke united-states Nov 12 '18 at 19:07

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  • An important legal principal that would likely come into play here is De Minimis Non Curat Lex " or "The court will not sit in judgment of extremely minor transgressions of the law." Given the backlog of Federal Judiciary any judge is likely to look at a complaint that "This police officer stopped me and asked for my id." to be a trifle, and unworthy of time on the docket. For the incident to become 'more than a minor transgression' there would have to be something more to it. – Cos Callis Nov 5 '18 at 15:05
  • Also, a police officer can ask all sorts of things. So can I, if I meet you. The question is whether the police officer can detain you or somehow legally require you to answer. – David Thornley Nov 5 '18 at 18:07
  • @David Thornley , You are right. I was arrested and later fined for refusing to show ID because he could not articulate any reasonable suspicion. The judge said "he may have been wrong about the reason for stopping, but you should have gave him your ID 😕 – Alex Doe Jan 18 at 1:37
  • @cos callis , Would a hundred of the same "minor transgressions" make a good case in cort? If not, it would sound like the constitution is there just to look pretty and not to be relied on. Seems like the law enforcement people and the judges have no respect for the law (of the land) – Alex Doe Jan 18 at 22:48

You're looking for the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

This prohibits the police from harassing you and stopping you without cause. It is not self-enforcing, though, so you can sue for a violation under 42 USC 1983:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

This is the normal means of enforcing your rights under the Fourth Amendment, as well as the First, Second, and so on.

  • Do they have to tell you the reason for harassing? If not how can the 4th be enforced? For all I know, he may have had a reasonable suspicion that I just don't know about 😕 – Alex Doe Mar 19 at 10:03

"Mocking the law" is not a crime in any US state that I kn ow of. Harassment is, and so is false arrest, and both are matters of state law.

Police cannot lawfully stop people at random who are not driving a car and demand to see ID. They must have some valid reason to make a stop, and to demand ID. The exact standard that applies depends on the exact circumstances, but often "articulable suspicion" is the standard that a court will apply. This mostly comes up if the stop leads to an arrest and an attempt is made to suppress statements or evidence. If the person stops files a harassment complaint, then the terms of the local harassment law will apply, and those will vary by state or perhaps by locality.

While harassment is a matter of state law, a claim for deprivation of civil rights is a federal matter, and has been used to address out-of-control police. But it is not likely to be pursued unless the US Attorney believes this is a rather serious matter. It is possible to file a federal civil suit for civil rights violation. (Under 42 USC 1983:, quoted in another answer.) But that is a tricky matter, and will surely require a lawyer.

  • Consider revision: OP specifically asks about 'cycling' (I'll assume bicycling) which is legally the equivalent of 'driving a car' if it is happening on city streets, sidewalks, or thoroughfares. This doesn't substantially change your answer, but applies it more specifically to the OP's query. – Cos Callis Nov 5 '18 at 14:58
  • Thre are specific laws permitting an officer who makes a traffic stop to demand ID, specifically a driver's license. I don't think those apply to a person driving a bicycle, although I am not sure. However a "Terry" stop may allow an officer to demand ID from someone biking, walking, or standing still. – David Siegel Nov 5 '18 at 20:27
  • A police office may request id from anyone, anytime. "ID" doesn't necessarily mean a 'driver's license' (though if the request is made to a driver, then yes, they may request a driver's licence). If your not driving you may answer "no, I don't have any ID on me." and that should pretty much end the encounter. If you get belligerent ("YOU CAN'T ask me for that!!!") now your behavior becomes "suspicious". Police officers are allowed to make conversation with members of the community without it being 'an interrogation' but if your behavior changes dramatically the officer may react. – Cos Callis Nov 5 '18 at 20:39

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