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Criminal defense: refusing to ID oneself not necessarily a crime

Across the country, reports of police officers allegedly overstepping their levels of authority can be found just about everywhere. People residing in California and elsewhere, are questioning what their rights are when approached by law enforcement officers. Recently, the release of a video, showing a pregnant woman being tackled to the ground for failing to immediately identify herself, has many wondering what the state laws are regarding responding to officers' requests for identification. It also begs the question: what kinds of criminal defense strategies can help if a person is arrested and charged for this reason?

Before really getting into this subject, it must be said, that there are many good police officers out there who are just trying to do their jobs and make it back to their homes safely. Does this mean, though, that California residents are not allowed to question the actions of these officers? No, it does not.

Earlier this year, a woman in southern California was arrested after she supposedly failed to identify herself upon police request. This woman had just dropped her daughter off at school when she then, allegedly, got into a fight with an employee. When police arrived, they soon after issued the arrest, after tackling the woman to the ground for allegedly resisting. Ultimately, she was released.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is legal for states to have laws that make refusing to identify oneself a crime. Currently, California does not have a law like this in place. According to state laws, an officer must have reasonable cause to request a person's identity. In this particular case, it was determined they did not have sufficient reason.

California residents who have been arrested for failing to identify themselves have every right to question the actions of their arresting officers. Even though, in this specific case, the woman was released, others may have their cases progress to criminal court. As part of a criminal defense, it will be necessary to thoroughly examine any evidence offered against the accused, which will include the arresting officers' police reports. If it is found that law enforcement officials lacked sufficient reason to request identification and still issued an arrest, charges against the accused could be dismissed.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Video of pregnant woman's arrest stokes debate over police demands for ID", Veronica Rocha, May 29, 2015

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results