Is Oklahoma a Stop and Identify State in 2023?
You’re walking down the street, minding your own business. A police officer approaches you and asks you what your name is and where you’re going. You probably feel compelled to answer, but in Oklahoma, you don’t have to. Why not? It all goes back to the question of whether Oklahoma is a stop and identify state.
What Is “Stop and Identify”?
Stop and identify is a policy where the police are allowed to stop an individual and demand identification, which can either be verbal (telling them your name) or a document (giving them your license).
Specific stop and identify policies vary by state: Some states allow officers to “request” identification, but don’t have punishments in place for those who don’t provide it. Other states have laws that allow officers to arrest you if you don’t provide identification when asked. The information that’s required also varies: Most states with these laws require you to provide your full name, while some also require your address, date of birth, and the “business” you’re conducting.
There is a common misperception that stop and identify means an officer can approach you for no reason and demand your license or other identification, but this is false. Even in states that have stop and identify laws, an officer must have “reasonable suspicion” that you’ve committed a crime or are about to. But as we’ll soon see, reasonable suspicion is a very low standard.
Is Stop and Identify Constitutional?
Yes – stop and identify laws have been ruled constitutional in many cases when there was reasonable suspicion for the stop. The landmark case here is Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the police to temporarily detain, investigate, and search a person (“stop and frisk”) based on “specific and articulable facts,” also known as reasonable suspicion. This case is the reason that “stop and frisk” is often referred to as a “Terry stop.”
A 2004 Supreme Court case, Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, addressed stop and identify specifically, ruling that Nevada’s law requiring a detained person to identify themselves is also constitutional. The reasoning is that a person’s name, by itself, is not self-incriminating and therefore isn’t protected by the Fifth Amendment. However, the person can only be detained to “ascertain his identity and the suspicious circumstances” and doesn’t have to answer any other questions.
These rulings left the door open for states to enact their own specific laws. Only seven states (Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Vermont) have laws that specifically punish an individual for refusing to identify themselves. In Arizona, if you refuse to verbally provide your name when you’re detained, you could be found guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. Other states have decided that refusing to provide ID is cause to arrest you. For example in Florida, the police can use your refusal to identify yourself as proof of “loitering and prowling,” which is also a class 2 misdemeanor. So, what about Oklahoma?
Is Oklahoma a Stop and Identify State?
No – Oklahoma is not a stop and identify state, meaning that we don’t have any specific laws on the books requiring citizens to provide identifying information. In other words, you don’t have to give the police your name or ID, and you won’t be punished for refusing. However, an officer is still allowed to “detain” you if they suspect that you’re about to commit a crime, or already have. And if you are formally arrested, you do have to provide ID.
We also want to note that all of Oklahoma’s neighbors except for Texas (New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana) do have stop and identify laws. Make sure you understand your rights in any state you drive through or visit.
Important Terms to Know
To fully understand stop and identify laws, you need to know the difference between a few important terms.
Arrest vs. Detention
In this context, detention isn’t something you get for misbehaving in school. Investigative detention is when a police officer temporarily stops you to ask questions. It’s only allowed if the officer has reasonable suspicion, and it can only last as long as it takes the officer to confirm or eliminate those suspicions – or to give you a ticket, in the case of a traffic stop.
The purpose of detention is so the officer can try to gather enough evidence to prove you were committing a crime. If they gather this evidence during the detention, you’ll be arrested. An arrest can also happen without detainment: If you’re under investigation for a crime, a judge can issue an arrest warrant that sends you straight to booking.
Unlike detention, an arrest can mean you’re jailed for days, weeks, months, or even years, depending on the crime you’re accused of and whether you can make bail. Another major difference is that an officer needs to read your Miranda Rights during an arrest, but not a detention.
Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause
Under the law, reasonable suspicion is a lower bar to meet than probable cause – it means that the officer is suspicious of you, but can’t prove you were doing anything wrong. In Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court defined reasonable suspicion as “specific reasonable inferences which [the officer] is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience.”
Probable cause is a higher bar because the officer must have actual knowledge that leads them to believe you’ve committed a crime or are going to commit a crime. That might include if they witnessed you committing a crime, a trustworthy source told them you committed a crime, or you have evidence of a crime in your possession, like drugs or stolen goods.
Obstruction and Self-Incrimination
The laws against obstructing an officer in Oklahoma are broad: “Any person who willfully delays or obstructs any public officer in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his office, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” This can include resisting arrest, withholding or tampering with evidence, yelling at an officer, or lying to an officer. However, thanks to the Fifth Amendment, it does not include refusing to answer questions beyond basic identification.
The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. In states with stop and identify laws, you cannot be required to answer questions beyond your name, address, and other basic information, even if you’ve been arrested. And in states like Oklahoma, which don’t have these laws, you don’t even have to provide your name in many circumstances.
How to Respond to Stop and Identify Requests in Oklahoma
Are you a little confused? Don’t be! We’ll look at some examples to understand if Oklahoma is a stop and identify state in certain circumstances.
If You’re Driving a Car
If you’re stopped while driving a car or any other motor vehicle, you do need to identify yourself. First, in order to pull you over in the first place, police need to have probable cause (in this case, likely a traffic violation). That means they’re allowed to ask you for identification. But the reason you have to provide it is because you’re required by law to prove that you have a license to drive a car.
You’re not required to answer any questions that aren’t about your license or insurance, including common questions like whether you’ve been drinking, where you’re going, or what you have in your vehicle. You also don’t have to consent to a search of your vehicle, although the officer can conduct one anyway if they have probable cause (like seeing an open alcohol container or drug paraphernalia).
If You’re Randomly Approached
While it isn’t legal, some officers will still test the limits of their power by approaching you without cause and asking for ID. In this case, you can ask them if you’re being detained. Remember, they need a reason to detain you, and if they don’t have one, they have to tell you that you’re not being detained and you’re free to go.
If You’re Detained
If the officer tells you that you are being detained, they need to have reasonable suspicion that you’re committing a crime. In Oklahoma, there’s no law on the books that punishes you if you don’t provide your name. In practice, not cooperating can make them even more suspicious. Depending on the situation, it may be smart to tell them your name – but never provide physical identification or answer any questions that could incriminate you.
If You’re Arrested
If you’re placed under arrest, you need to not only verbally identify yourself, but also show physical ID. That’s because you’ll be booked into jail and processed, and need to post bail to leave. If you don’t show physical ID, you could have additional misdemeanor charges filed against you.
When Do You Need an Attorney?
You have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself, and the state of Oklahoma doesn’t require you to identify yourself, either. But that doesn’t mean the police will always follow the rules. Some officers might think a refusal to answer their questions is a challenge to their authority. They might make up a reason they stopped you – or even a reason to arrest you.
Even if you handle the situation perfectly, you could still end up in the back of a police car. It’s never smart to lie to an officer, obstruct them, or resist arrest. The best thing to do is refuse to answer any questions and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Remember: The police are required to provide solid evidence to charge you with a crime. An arrest is not a conviction – and if the evidence isn’t there, your charges can be thrown out.
The Bottom Line
Oklahoma is not a stop and identify state. Unless you’re driving, the police can’t compel you to identify yourself, and you never have to answer any other questions. But if you still find yourself under arrest, an experienced attorney can help you prove your rights were violated and get your charges dismissed. Contact the Khalaf Law Firm for a free case evaluation today.