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I was stopped while cycling on hwy 59 in Texas, about 50 miles south of Huston.

Officer started asking me questions about my travels.
I asked: "Have I done anything illegal?
Officer: "No, but I need your ID"
I: Am I being detained?
Officer: No.
I: Am I free to go?
Officer: Hmm.. No.
I: Do you not have to have a "reasonable suspicion" to detein me?
Officer: No, I do not. I need to know who you are. What if a truck passes you by, and the wind draft pushes you into the ditch and you die. We need to know who to send the body to.

I thought he was joking, and I started to walk away. Then another officer (ID 13378) came and said I had to show ID or he will arrest me.

I gave him my ID and I was on my way quickly.

My question is: Did the cops act illegally in any way there? Do they or do they not have to have a reasonable suspicion to detain people on the road?
I love cycling my way to wherever I need to go. I comply even with what I consider illegal requests from cops, but it is getting aggravating after too many encounters.

I wrote a few emails to the state, but no answer 😕

Edit:

I tried ACLU and same, no answer, no reply. I tried to simply tell cops "NO, it's not ok" and I got arrested for obstructing an officer (I have a question about it here ) I tried cycling south of the US-MX border. That seems to have worked great :)

If the answer is "no, the cops are not required to tell the detainee the reason for stoping" (which is counter intuitive), can someone back that up with an actual law or case law please?

  • 2
    It is obvious if nothing else that the cops were jerks. Cyclists never need to show ID to law enforcement. In some states and situations, cyclists may need to identify themselves - which could mean verbally identify yourself (e.g., "I am Alex Doe, of 1234 Main Street, Huston, TX"). – emory Feb 10 at 2:25
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    It is completely legal to make bogus threats of arrest and then never carry them out. – emory Feb 10 at 2:26
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    @Acccumulation Yes cops can ask for ID when they issue traffic tickets to cyclists. They can ask for anything they want. Asking implies you have the right to refuse. – emory Mar 11 at 19:48
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    Possible duplicate of Why do cops make up funny stories when detaining people? – hszmv Apr 8 at 16:54
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    @hszmv just a heads up, February comes before March. – StephanS Apr 8 at 19:24
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If there is no reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed or about to be committed, then there is no reason to seize you, and the Fourth Amendment "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated". Even if a state has a "stop and identify" statute, reasonable suspicion is a minimum requirement for seizing your person, even temporarily. Texas is not a state with an obligation to identify statute.

I would not expect the state to be very helpful, given the facts as you report them. There might be others, such as the ACLU, who may be happy to discuss the particulars of your case. The police need to justify a stop in court, and not to the person being seized. I don't know if there is any case law saying that a false police statement to a detainee ("No, I don't have a reasonable suspicion") precludes claiming in court that there was reasonable suspicion, but it should at least make the claim of reasonable suspicion less credible. They do have to have reasonable suspicion, and they do not have to tell you what that suspicion is. OTOH if they are just harassing bicyclists, that would be illegal.

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    If the cop was indeed harassing the OP who then took him to court, what punishment would the cop get and for what offence? – Greendrake Feb 9 at 22:33
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    This would be a civil rights violation; the officer could be civilly liable, except that the court would probably not find that the officer had been "put on notice" w.r.t. the action, so he would have qualified immunity (and thus no consequence for the officer). I'm not saying that it would be pointless: the point could be to get a ruling that results in a change of policy and does put officers on notice. – user6726 Feb 9 at 23:41
  • Have any idea why they are not required by law to tell you the real reason for stopping? – Alex Doe Feb 10 at 0:51
  • Because the Texas legislature has not passed a law which forces police to answer that question. It is within their power to do so, but have not. On Politics SE they might give details about why, but it's essentially because there is no political demand for such a change in the law. – user6726 Feb 10 at 0:56
  • @AlexDoe the meaning of "the police need to justify a stop in court" is that the best chance you have of getting them to describe why they've stopped you is to do something to get yourself arrested and charged. Then, in your defense against the charge, you challenge the stop as illegal, forcing the police to justify it. The other negative consequences of this approach, however, most likely far outweigh any benefit you might perceive in forcing the police to describe why they stopped you. – phoog Feb 10 at 5:27
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Many states that are known as "Stop and Identify" which requires anyone stopped by the police to identify information about themselves, such as providing your name, or providing a valid ID.

Stop and Identify States:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri (Kansas City only), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Texas has Penal Code 38.02 which says:

a person must identify themselves by giving a valid name, address, and date of birth to a police officer who has lawfully arrested them.

The key word is arrest, although many police officers believe they're within their rights to identify anyone, for any reason (Probably lack of training). Texas courts have repetitively struck down many cases pertaining to stop and identify after Brown v. Texas, a case from 1979, which stated that stop and identify was unconstitutional, the law undermines a citizen's 4th amendment rights. The idea of stop and identify unconstitutionality was later reaffirmed in Weddle v. Ferrell (2000).

What is reasonable suspicion in Texas?

Texas courts believe there are only three main categories of interactions between citizens and officers.

  • Arrests
  • Investigative detentions
  • Encounters

The encounter you described seems to fall under a consensual encounter, as described in "A Peace Officer Guide"

page #12

subtitle: "SEARCH AND SEIZURE – REASONABLE SUSPICION WAS NOT SUPPLIED BY ANONYMOUS TIP CORROBORATED ONLY BY INNOCENT ACTIVITY AND DID NOT SUPPORT DETENTION"

which would not constitute reasonable suspicion, since the office said he didn't meet the requirements to detain you, but if the officer simply said: "yes, I am", he would not need to give you a reason, and your interaction would have changed from a consensual encounter to an investigative detention. Investigated detentions are a way to gather more information about a suspect, but is not an arrest (It's not an arrest ID doesn't need to be presented). Investigated detentions are described as "brief and cursory", you can tell you are being detained if the officer indicates that you can't leave (police lights, or telling you that you are being detained).

This is an answer that provides more case law on reasonable suspicion

do cops have to inform the detainee about the suspicion?

No, the police don't have to inform you about the reason you're being detained, but the case will likely fall apart if their reason doesn't meet the standards of reasonable suspicion described in the case law above.

  • "No, the police don't have to inform you about the reason you're being detained" Is there any law or case law to support that claim? – Alex Doe Apr 2 at 2:59
  • detainment can only last 15-25 minutes before it becomes a de facto arrest, during the time of the detainment the police are within their right to ask you questions (you don't have to answer them, but they can still ask you) upheld in United States v. Drayton(2002). – StephanS Apr 3 at 2:39
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No a Texas Law Enforcement Officer can not make you show your license.

In 1981, the Southern District of Texas ruled that a defendant was arrested and subsequently convicted due to their refusal to answer an officer’s questions regarding identification. The Southern District went further to state that this type of behavior by law enforcement is “impermissible even in the context of a lawful investigatory stop.” See Spring v. Caldwell, 516 F. Supp. 1223 (S.D. Tex. 1981), reversed on other grounds 692 F.2d 994 (5th Cir. 1982). https://fairlawpllc.com/texas-failure-to-id-laws-pt1/

That article tells the rules for Texas Law Enforcement Officers regarding demands for licenses in various situations and provides citations for the cases in Texas that made it that way.

If an officer is bothering you, contact his supervisor. It is up to the his chief or Sheriff to reprimand him, if he won't stop. With people in general, its better to just explain why you are concerned to him at first. He is wrong to ask for your license without reason, but that doesn't mean you can just sue him.

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