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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 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 that got put on hold for being poorly worded/off topic) I tried cycling south of the US-MX border. That seems to have worked great :)

  • 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
  • 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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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.

  • 1
    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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