When you are pulled over by a police officer, there’s a good chance they’re going ask for your driver’s license and registration.
While that may be standard operating procedure for many police officers in Raleigh, are you required to comply?
Are you required to provide identification?
Does include handing over your NC Driver’s License, Registration, and Insurance?
Is North Carolina a “Stop and Identify” state?
In this blog post, Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer John Fanney will discuss interactions with law enforcement, what is required, and your constitutional rights.
Is producing identification required in a “voluntary contact” with police?
In certain states, if a police officer or state trooper conducts an investigative stop, the person stopped is legally required to identify themselves.
You may have heard of that referred to as the “Stop and Identify” law.
Generally speaking, in a “voluntary contact” with police in North Carolina, you are not required to provide identification such as your driver’s license.
The General Assembly has not, thus far, specifically set forth in the statutes that North Carolina is a Stop and Identify state.
Voluntary means voluntary. That means you have the right not to cooperate or engage with law enforcement, but there are important exceptions – John Fanney, Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer
Police are ordinarily not required to explain your legal rights, especially with regard to your freedom to be left alone and not speak with them.
That may change if you are under arrest and subject to something called a “custodial interrogation.”
In that instance, you may have the right to remain silent under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.
Unfortunately, police officers also aren’t accustomed to people saying “no” or declining to waive their legal rights.
Even if you’re right and you have no duty to provide identification, police may not like that.
They may hassle you. They may try to pressure or threaten you.
Because of that, we think it’s a good idea to always be polite and remain calm.
If an officer escalates the situation, ask for a supervisor to respond to the scene.
To be clear, a lawful arrest for resistance, obstruction, or delay (resist obstruct) in certain circumstances during a lawful stop.
There are instances when producing identification may be required.
Those include times such as:
- When the officer wishes to write a citation and needs to determine the identity of the person to whom the ticket or citation is to be issued; and,
- When the officer conducts a Terry stop and may wish to complete a report, again necessitating the identity of the person subject to the stop.
One would be remiss in failing to note, in both such instances, there is reasonable suspicion of a crime and/or that criminal activity is “afoot.”
That is substantively different from a true “voluntary contact.”
Am I being detained? Am I free to go?
If a police officer approaches you and says, “Can I see your identification?” respond by asking them, “Am I being detained? Am I under arrest? Am I free to go?”
If they tell you you’re not detained, you may not be required to present identification.
Police regularly counter by saying, “I’m going to need some identification from you before I let you go” or pressure you into providing information about yourself, stating, “I just need to check out who you are.”
Ask law enforcement, “Have I committed a crime? Do you suspect me of criminal activity? What is your reasonable suspicion?”
As you likely realize, standing your ground and exercising your rights can be stressful.
And it’s a complicated area of law that relies on very technical distinctions in fact patterns.
North Carolina v Harper, a September 2022 opinion complicates the issue.
It’s not so bright line anymore. The Harper opinion may have changed things – John Fanney, Raleigh Criminal Lawyer
Police have guns and pepper spray and batons and handcuffs.
If you’re not at least a little bit afraid and intimidated in a contentious encounter with law enforcement, that would be unusual.
We’ve all seen the videos.
The best place to argue a legal matter is in court, not on the side of the road or wherever the encounter with law enforcement may occur.
If police continue to ask you questions, simply state, “I wish to exercise my right to remain silent. I do not consent to a search.”
The law may differ from state to state or according to the specific circumstances of the situation. It is important to know your rights when interacting with law enforcement.
We think it’s best to consult with a qualified legal professional if you are unclear as to your rights and responsibilities – John Fanney, Raleigh Criminal Lawyer
Am I required to produce a Driver’s License if I get pulled over?
In North Carolina, yes.
If you are operating a motor vehicle on the public streets or highways, you are required to produce your driver’s license consistent with N.C.G.S. 20-29.
In fact, the law is somewhat broadly written. It is not limited to people who are operating motor vehicles.
It also applies to people who are “in charge of a motor vehicle.”
Failure to comply with the officer’s request to “write his name for the purpose of identification,” or giving a false name or address, or the failure “surrender his license” may result in a Class 2 Misdemeanor in North Carolina.
Police also may request you produce the vehicle registration and insurance.
Under the NC Criminal Laws, if you’re driving a vehicle, police may ask for your license and demand proof of insurance and vehicle registration.
Are passengers in vehicles required to produce registration?
This too is a complicated, if not confusing, area of law.
Assuming the passenger or passengers in a vehicle have done nothing wrong, and there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, North Carolina may not require proof of identification of te passenger(s).
On the other hand, if the passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt or is in violation of some North Carolina law, or is suspected of criminal activity, identifying themselves may be required under the law.
What should I do if the police want to ask me questions?
Identifying yourself differs from answering inculpatory questions as part of an investigation or interrogation.
You can provide a driver’s license, registration, and insurance documents without answering any questions.
You do not have to answer the police officer’s questions like “Where are you going?” or “How much have you had to drink?” if you don’t want to.
In general, it is safest to remain silent and politely ask to speak with your lawyer before answering any questions asked by the police.
We believe it best to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have any questions or uncertainties about your individual rights in a particular situation.
John Fanney, an experienced Raleigh Criminal Lawyer, can provide knowledgeable advice and guidance on navigating the complexities of driver license laws in North Carolina.
Contact him today for more information.
When does Miranda apply?
Miranda warnings are required when a person is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of their freedom AND officers attempt to elicit inculpatory statements through interrogation.
The Miranda warning advises the suspect of their right to remain silent, as well as other rights such as the right to counsel and the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
If a suspect is required by law to provide identification and registration, then the Miranda Warning may not be required pursuant to the request for such mandatory materials.
However, if police questioning goes beyond a request for identification and becomes more of an interrogation, then understanding your rights and consulting with a qualified legal professional is important.
John Fanney, a Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer, can help protect your rights if you find yourself in this situation.
Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer – John Fanney
In North Carolina, if you are operating a motor vehicle or in charge of one on public streets and highways, you must produce your driver’s license to law enforcement when requested.
Passengers may also be required to identify themselves, depending on the circumstances.
It is important for everyone involved to understand their rights in these situations and seek advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh who can provide knowledgeable guidance about navigating the stop and identify laws in North Carolina.
Regardless of the situation, it is best to remain polite and calm when dealing with police officers.