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Do I always have to show the police my ID in Virginia?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Criminal defense |

The answer to the question of whether you have to show the police your ID in Virginia depends on the situation and the local laws.

No state-wide stop-and-identify law

Some states have laws that require people to identify themselves to the police when they are stopped on reasonable suspicion of a crime. These are called stop-and-identify laws, and they vary from state to state.

However, Virginia does not have these laws. This means that, in general, you do not have to show your ID to the police if they stop you without a warrant or probable cause.

Local exemptions

However, there are some complications to this rule. First, some local jurisdictions in Virginia may have their own stop and identify ordinances. For example, Fairfax County has an ordinance that requires people to identify themselves to the police when they are suspected of violating any county ordinance or state law.

Breach of the peace exemption

Even if there is no local stop and identify ordinance, you may still have to identify yourself verbally if you are involved in a breach of the peace. Under Virginia law, you can be charged with a misdemeanor if you refuse to identify yourself to a police officer after the officer has witnessed a breach of the peace. This includes any disorderly conduct, like fighting, obstructing traffic, etc.

Driving exemption

If you are driving a vehicle, you are required by law to show your driver’s license if the police stop you for a traffic violation or an equipment violation. You may also be asked to show your ID if you are involved in a car accident.

Showing ID does not mean participating in an investigation

Regardless of whether you have to show your ID or not, you always have the right to remain silent and refuse a search. You do not have to answer any questions about where you are going, doing or even where you live. You can simply hand over your ID and remain silent. You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your property.

Of course, this does not mean the police will follow the rule of law. If that happens, do not escalate the situation. Remain calm. Try to document the incident as much as possible, get the officers’ information and you can file your lawsuit later.