Residents of New York are often faced with the difficult decision of whether
or not to provide law enforcement with their identification. Generally,
law enforcement officers will demand an ID to "conduct their investigation."
The issue boils down to whether or not the officer has sufficient probable
cause or reasonable suspicion to demand the identification. In order for
there to be reasonable suspicion, the officer must suspect that such person
is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony
or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his
name, address and an explanation of his conduct.
The concept of reasonable suspicion is where the lines begin to blur. The
Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement officers can deceive the
public in an effort to obtain the information they need. That being said,
an officer must be able to articulate his or her suspicion. For example,
if a citizen resembles a wanted suspect, an officer can demand that person'
identification in order to ascertain whether or not they're the one
at large. While the officer would technically be violating the citizens
rights under the fourth amendment of the United States, their violation
will be excused by the reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person
ID'd was the actual suspect.
In sum, we are all safe from illegal searches and seizures under the fourth
amendment. That right however is not absolute. It is wise to cooperate
with law enforcement officers if there is any question as to why you are
being ID'd, if only to avoid the threat of jail. If the officer is
unable to state a reason why you are being ID'd, the citizen is faced
with a judgment call: how far am I willing to push the system? Some are
more willing to stand and fight for their constitutional rights than others.
What each and every United States citizen must understand is that we live
in a time when our rights are being ground to dust, all in the name of
public safety. Officers often cite 9/11 as an excuse to be more aggressive
in their quest to enforce the law. In the words of the late Supreme Court
Justice Antonin Scalia, this is "pure applesauce."
UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS. It is our duty as citizens to know what is contained
within the Bill of Rights. If we ignore the inalienable rights granted
to us by the Constitution, they will be swiftly taken away from us.