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Is New York a Stop and ID State?

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."

New York State Stop and Identify Law

Under New York state law, an officer can only stop you and demand ID if there is sufficient probable cause or reasonable suspicion to demand the identification. Additionally, if you are not being detained, you are not legally obligated to show ID.

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.