If I Carry an ID, Do I Have to Identify Myself?

If I Carry an ID, Do I Have to Identify Myself?

Last updated: August 2015

The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette. This article was published on August 20, 2008.

Q:  You said there’s no law that requires you to carry any kind of ID card with you. I do carry an ID. Do I have to show it if the police ask for it? If I don’t have to show an ID, can I refuse to identify myself?

A:  You cannot be forced to show an ID. There is no state or domestic passport law.  

You can be required to identify yourself only if:

  • You are in a public place;
  • The police think you part of a crime; and
  • The police tell you that they are police.

The police can suspect you of any crime.  The crime can be a past, present, or future offense.

The police can ask for the following:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • A reason for your actions

You have to give only your name. You can provide more information and show an ID. Many say that is best. Things may go more smoothly. Others say it is a breach of privacy.

You can refuse to give your name when:

  • You are not in a public place;
  • The police are just making conversation; or
  • The police do not think you are part of a crime.

Remember: it’s different if you’re driving. Drivers must carry a license. They must show it upon request. 

Helpful Organizations
The following organizations may be able to help you with

For a list of organizations in your area that may be able to help you, enter your zip code.



We welcome your comments and suggestions

User Survey - Please take a moment to fill out our User Survey to help us to provide better service.

Please do not email legal questions or information about your problem. We will not answer legal questions or provide legal assistance. You can find referrals to legal organizations that may be able to help you by clicking here.