I was watching a video by RealWorldPolice about a high school student who was arrested for carrying a loaded gun into his school in Seattle, WA. Footage of the entire search, detainment, and arrest of the student can be found here.

At one point in the video, a police officer is interrogating the student about the contents of his wallet, which apparently contained somebody else's ID and credit card; the officer claimed that this was illegal (starts at 13:48):

Cop: ... And who is "Caleb Wartz?"

Student: [Indicating to an ID the officer is holding] ... That's Caleb's ID ... he goes here.

C: I got that. Why is it in your wallet?

S: Because that's my friend Caleb?

C: Why do you have his ID?

S: Because he left it at the gym, and I picked it up, and I was supposed to give it to him...

C: OK, why do you have someone else's credit card?

S: That, I don't know... That... I had a new wallet, picked it up from my house, it's always been in there, never used it...

C: You realize it's a crime just to possess someone else's credit card?

Is there any validity to the officer's claim that merely possessing someone else's credit card is illegal in and of itself, federal or state?

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    Your motivating backstory is a little distracting from the actual question because it mixes in the idea that a police officer in the US would be under any obligation to say the truth. I assume you are aware this is not the case and do not want answers with explanations of that? Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 13:36
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    Surely bringing a loaded gun to school is the more serious crime here, isn't it? There are legitimate reasons to be in possession of someone else's credit card, but bringing a firearm to a school is illegal, full-stop (unless that's your job, as a security officer or something). Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 15:15
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    @DarrelHoffman It is not at all obvious that bringing a firearm to school is actually illegal. It is in some (many cases) but likely not all. See giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/policy-areas/guns-in-public/… it's an antigun lobby but seems to have some summary of laws.
    – DRF
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 16:05
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    @DarrelHoffman When I was young I brought loaded guns to school many many times. It was definitely not illegal then. Although laws may have changed, I would be surprised if this was illegal everywhere. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 16:09
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    @DRF Okay, so according to your source, in the state of Washington, they are optionally allowed on college campuses but prohibited in high schools, which is what this case is about. So yes, it is definitely illegal in this case. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


I think the officer is probably lying, not just mistaken, but they are not required to always be truthful. In addition to the law against possessing ID with intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime, it is also against the law to be knowingly in possession of a stolen credit card, or any other property. An example of a strict-liability possession crime, which the officer knows of, is that it is a crime to possess heroin, period. I am skeptical that the officer actually believes that there is a law making it a crime to be in possession of a credit card with permission, and suspect that he thinks it is stolen.

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    Hold up, it's legal for a police officer to say something is a crime when they know it is not? How is that ethical in any way?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 17:21
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    @corsiKa Nobody said anything about ethics, but police have near-absolute legal immunity in the United States. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 18:11
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    @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- Less so than is popularly thought, but lying to a suspect is absolutely not a problem. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 19:56
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    @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- Forgive me, I just assumed that public servants had an obligation to operate ethically, at least on paper.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 3:12
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    @corsiKa laughs in Realpolitik Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 3:30

Looking at Washington's Identity Theft statute RCW 9.35.020

No person may knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.

So, just possessing someone else's credit card is not a crime as long as one does not have the intent to use it for a crime. The officer may not exactly be lying, however - it's entirely possible that given all of the evidence, a prosecutor could prove that someone who possessed another person's credit card without attempting to use it to commit a crime did in fact intend to use it to commit a crime. It's unlikely to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt with only the teenager's evasive answer, but further investigation could lead to more evidence suggesting he intended to commit a crime with it.

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    If the owner of the credit card says they didn't object, the case would be moot though. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 2:03
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    @JonathanReez Irrelevant if the person having it wants to commit a crime. Of course the general problem with "intent" laws is proving something inherently unobservable (the inner state of somebody's mind) -- you need so much circumstantial evidence that it likely is close to an attempt. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 6:13
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    Regardless, it's perfectly legal for the officer to lie. The officer can say anything is illegal, just to put you on your back foot and make you more nervous so you're more compliant. Officer wins if you admit crimes. The crimes don't have to be real. If the officer can get the kid to admit shooting JFK, then the DA can use it as leverage later to force a plea bargain on the other thing (i.e. short-circuit a legitimate defense). Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 18:48
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica while true, it's hard to imagine what crime might be committed if he's authorized to have the card.
    – fectin
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 21:02
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    @fectin Money laundering, misappropriation? Posing as an adult on the internet? Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 21:13

Note that it's pretty obviously not illegal to simply possess another person's ID--it's not exactly an unusual situation with couples. I have handed plenty (probably upwards of 100) of government officials my wife's passport, nobody has ever had a problem with that.

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    I don't think "Nobody every had a problem with that" is a sound legal advice. I was never confronted for jaywalking, but it is a offense that can be fined. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 16:44
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    @TomášZato-ReinstateMonica "Jaywalking" (colloquial use) is actually often not a crime at least in my area (Florida). Pedestrians are permitted to cross mid-block as long as it is not between two consecutive intersections with traffic lights. Yet pedestrians occasionally get ticketed for crossing between traffic lights and assume that all mid-block crossings are illegal. To compare with this example, if one is cited/arrested for carrying another person's ID with intent, one might (incorrectly) assume that it is always illegal, regardless of intent.
    – Possum
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 22:39
  • @Possum indeed, in some jurisdictions it's simply not a crime at all.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 6:04
  • @TomášZato-ReinstateMonica Note that I was talking about quite obviously doing it in front of the authorities. Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 19:32

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