In Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, DWI

If a police officer asks you your name, without stating anything more to you, does Connecticut law require you to provide your name or i.d.?

The answer under Connecticut law is that if it’s just a flat request for your name or i.d., without anything more, then you are

100% within your rights to say “No”

And by the way, be grateful that you don’t live in one of the 24 states that make it mandatory to provide your identification to a police officer upon demand.

BUT WHAT IF a police officer in Connecticut asks you your name and the officer is investigating the commission of a crime, or the potential commission of a crime and the officer asks you for your name or i.d.? Do you have to comply?

The answer is “Yes”

There’s also another scenario, that according to the Connecticut Supreme Court will require you to identify yourself; that’s when an officer has some articulable reason to be concerned for his safety.

If you’re confused, or it’s hard for you to imagine what the difference is between the “no” scenario and the “yes” scenario, then you have lots of company, including a crowd of lawyers, law enforcement personnel and even judges.  And, by the way, we’re not talking today about the scenario where you’re driving, are stopped by an officer, and asked for your driver’s license.  That car-driving situation is a different scenario entirely and Connecticut law requires you to provide your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

The fundamental concept that applies everywhere in this country is that if a law enforcement official has a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed, you can be detained.

What does “detained” mean?  It means that you are not free to leave.

So, let’s suppose that you’ve been stopped by law enforcement in Connecticut and asked for your name or identification.  The most direct way to determine whether you have to comply is to ask

“Am I free to leave?”

If the officer tells you that you’re free to leave, then you may do exactly that; exit the situation without providing any information, including your name or identification.  Keep walking and don’t stop.

If the officer tells you that you’re not free to leave, then you’re being detained and the officer should be operating under the legal and investigative standard of “reasonable suspicion”.   This is a standard that is supposed to be supported by “articulable facts” connected to at least the beginning of a criminal investigation.

In fact, federal and Connecticut cases require officers to be able to detail specific facts that support an objective description that “something is afoot”.  It has to be more than simply a gut instinct.

The simple reality is that “reasonable suspicion” is subject to extraordinary discretion and interpretation, which is what makes the concept so hard for lay people and lawyers and police.

If you’ve established that you’re not free to leave, then your Miranda rights immediately come into play, (think “right to remain silent, right to counsel”, etc.), and this is where the friction really develops between your Constitutional rights and law enforcement’s right to investigate criminal activity.  The reality is that the right of law enforcement to investigate criminal activity is likewise our societal right and everyone’s need for the administration of law and order.  This is hard stuff – this friction.

Can you still refuse to provide your  name or identification when you’ve been detained?  Sure you can…

HOWEVER, if you do, aside from whatever other criminal matter may be under investigation, if a Connecticut officer is operating under “reasonable suspicion”, and you refuse to provide your name or identification, you’ll almost certainly be charged with the separate crime of Interfering with Police; C.G.S. section 53a-167a.

Ultimately, in any interaction with law enforcement, the watchwords must be patience, respect and restraint.  This is true for both you and law enforcement.  When you think that you’ve reached the end of your restraint, summon still more.

And if you’re under investigation, have a question about your legal rights or have been arrested call The Maddox Law Firm.