Editor’s note: This commentary is part of the Emerald’s and ASUO Legal Services’ ongoing efforts to assist students through education as well as representation. ASUO Legal Services’ attorneys are licensed to practice in the state of Oregon. Information disseminated in this article does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship. For legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your state. You should not make legal hiring decisions based upon brochures, advertising or other promotional materials.

You’ve probably seen ads and articles in the Emerald saying that you must show ID or give your name whenever asked by a police officer. It’s not true.

The Emerald quoted Public Safety Interim Director Tom Hicks as saying, “The police do have the authority to make you give your ID, and if you refuse, they can take you to jail” (“Foot patrol officers help prevent riots in University area,” Sept. 29). Hicks later confirmed that he was misquoted and actually said, “If an officer stops you for a violation, the officer has the authority to detain you until establishing your identity.” That’s true.

Law enforcement and DPS officers probably don’t like the fact that students don’t have to give up their names or ID on demand. It makes their jobs more difficult and slows them down. Still, everyone — students and law enforcement — must follow the rules.

Now that so many DPS officers have citation authority, it’s even more important that students have accurate information about their legal rights and duties. You might give your name or ID because you don’t know your options, or you might instead choose to give your name or ID because you reason that it’s easier or better than suffering the consequences of refusing.

Generally, an officer cannot require your name or ID even during a lawful stop. You’re not required to carry ID. Likewise, you’re generally not required to show an ID to prove the name you gave is true.

Oregon law doesn’t require you to disclose your name or ID upon an officer’s demand. Refusing to give your name or ID or failing to carry ID is generally not an offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously found other states’ laws requiring citizens to carry or show ID unconstitutional.

Sometimes you must carry or present a particular form of ID. For instance, you must carry a driver’s license when you drive and show it to officers enforcing traffic laws. Otherwise, police can detain you to investigate your identity and arrest you for the crime of failing to carry or present a driver’s license.

If an officer stops you on reasonable suspicion that you committed or are about to commit a crime, he can ask for your name and ID as part of his “reasonable inquiry.” However, you’re not required to answer, and you commit no offense by refusing to give your name or ID. If you refuse, you should expect to be arrested for the crime the officer thinks you committed, rather than cited and released, but not for refusing to give your name or ID.

An officer who suspects you of a non-criminal violation can stop and detain you and ask for name and ID. You may legally refuse to give your name and, in that case, you should expect to be detained as long as necessary to establish your identity. Again, your refusal to give your name or ID isn’t a separate offense and you cannot be legally arrested or jailed for that refusal.


Ilona Koleszar is the director of ASUO Legal Services.