A New Interpretation: What is a Stop and Identify Statute? [A Study of 50 States]

How many stop and identify states are there?

As of 2020, there are at least 28 stop and identify states.

Stop and frisks are one of the most controversial police tactics which exist today.

It’s crazy but the same legal precedents that allow for stop and frisks, also allow for what are known as stop and identify statutes.

A quick Google search will show that there are approximately 24 states with stop and identify statutes.

Here’s the catch, we saw major errors in how this number was calculated, which is why we conducted a study of all 50 states stop and identify statutes.

And the results were MUCH different than most of the leading sources are reporting today.

Our Findings: In Brief

Our study found that 28 should be considered stop and identify states. However, we found that at least 32 states have stop and identify statutes, 4 of which are very limited in scope.

These statutes come in 4 core types.

Furthermore, we identified 5 states which were not included in any previous lists of stop and identify states. Finally, we found 1 state which should no longer be considered a stop and identify state.

Download the PDF of the full study Here

Here is a map of stop and identify states as of 2020

Introduction to The Study

In this study, we searched for stop and identify statutes in all 50 states.

But, it wasn’t quite that simple….

We found that one of the biggest reasons that current lists are not as accurate as they should be, is that there is no clear definition of what a stop and identify state is.

Without a definition, it’s impossible to come up with an accurate list of stop and identify states or statutes.

So, before we go deeper into results, we need to look into:

  • What stop and identify states are,
  • The court cases that gave rise to them,
  • Finally, how we can define stop and identify statutes and stop and identify states accurately.

What is a “Stop and Identify Statute?

In order to do come up with a definition for stop and identify statutes, we looked at 4 cases which have shaped and defined the stop and identify laws we know have today.

Case #1: Terry Stops and the Birth of Stop and Identify

Terry v. Ohio is the most cited and credited case for the legitimacy of both stop and identify, as well as stop and frisk statutes.

In short, John W. Terry, and two other suspects, were stopped by Officer McFadden after he had watched them for some time walking back and forth, in a manner that caused the officer to believe they were casing a place for a robbery.

Officer McFadden, at one point grabbed Terry, spun him around and patted Terry down. During this pat down, the Officer found a handgun in Terry’s jacket. Terry was charged with concealing a handgun, and as a result a legal battle ensued in which Terry’s case eventually landed before the supreme court.

"Upon suspicion that the person may be armed, the police should have the power to "frisk" him for weapons. If the "stop" and the "frisk" give rise to probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime, then the police should be empowered to make a formal "arrest," and a full incident "search" of the person."

The decision of Terry v. Ohio (1968), created a president for police officers to pat down or “frisk” a suspect under certain conditions: such as when reasonable suspicion of a crime, or for the officers safety. This created what is known as a “terry stop”, or stop and frisk.

Case #2: State v. White First Challenge to Stop and Identify Law

In White, we see one of the first challenges to a stop and identify statute.

The court held that Washington state’s stop-and-identify statute was unconstitutionally vague. Which resulted in excluding evidence because the law was “so grossly and flagrantly unconstitutional'” that any reasonable person would see its flaws.

State v. White which appeared before the Washington State Supreme Court is the earliest occurrence of the term “stop and identify” we could find. Although it may not apply to all states, it is in line with many stop and identify statutes that are around today.

"[4] Arrest — Stop and Identify— Standards. A statute authorizing the stopping of an individual must include standards by which the lawfulness of the stop can be gauged. A stop may only be based on specific, objective facts indicating that legitimate interests of society require the stop or on a plan embodying specific, neutral limitations on the conduct of the stopping officers."

This 1982 case formed a strong 4th amendment argument against stop and identify standards. This argument secured 4th amendment protections in the state of Washington. Which to this date does not have a stop and identify statute.

Case #3: Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, (2004)

Now, we would be remiss to talk about stop and identify statuettes and not bring up Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, Humbolt County et al. Decided in 2004.

The term “stop and identify statutes” appears to be popularized by this case, and it is a major source of the incomplete information used to build the current lists of states with “stop and identify statutes”.

With the case of Hiibel, we can put the modern view of “stop and identify statutes” into proper light, and see where misconceptions may begin to arise.

“1. Any peace officer may detain any person whom the officer encounters under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime....."

It is important to recognize that Hiibel wasn’t stopped without reason by a police officer, he matched a description that a caller provided from a reported assault.

Within the context of a suspected crime (an assault) Hiibel was asked to identify himself and refused. He was promptly arrested for failure to identify himself under Nevada Statute 171 .123 which reads:

“3. The officer may detain the person pursuant to this section only to ascertain his identity and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his presence abroad. Any person so detained shall identify himself, but may not be compelled to answer any other inquiry of any peace officer.”

Hiibel held 4 key principles surrounding Stop and Identify Statutes:

  1. Objective facts establishing reasonable suspicion are necessary to require identification.
  2. Questions concerning a suspect’s identity are a routine and accepted part of many Terry stops.
  3. Stop and Identify laws in the course of a Terry stop are consistent with Fourth Amendment prohibitions.
  4. Upheld Nevada’s state law criminalizing refusal to provide identification during a Terry stop.

These 4 key principles are crucial for establishing a meaningful definition of stop and identify statutes.

Case #4- Mimms Traffic Stop

For the sake coming up with an accurate definition for the purpose of this study, we will be excluding statues that fall under the Mimm’s decision which is specific to traffic stops.

Mimm’s ruled that, subsequent to a valid Terry stop for a traffic violation, a police officer may search the individual for weapons where the officer has reason to believe the person is armed and dangerous.

To maintain consistency with previously complied lists, we will not include traffic related “stop and identify statutes”.

How Do We Define Stop and Identify Statutes?

As it stands, there is no clear, universal definition of the term “Stop and Identify Statutes”.

For the sake of this study, we created the following definition based on the 4 cases above, so that we can fairly determine which statutes can be classified as “stop and identify”.

Stop and Identify Statutes can be defined as:

“A statute; which being passed by a state, allows officers to demand from, or require under penalty of law, an individual to accurately identify himself to police officers- either by name or by state issued ID- when: reasonable suspicion or probable cause for a crime, potential crime, violation of a federal law, statute, ordinance or other reason for lawful arrest, or detainment exists.”

How Do We Define Stop and Identify States?

Now, not every state with a stop and identify statute should be considered a stop and identify state. Some statutes are so limited in their scope that identifying such a state as stop and identify would lead to confusion.

For example, Pennsylvania’s Title 34 § 904. which requires individuals to identify themselves to GAME officers, not law enforcement as a whole.

Therefore, we defined Stop and Identify States as such:

“A state which has enacted a statute that can be defined as a stop and identify statute; which is not narrow in scope and broadly allows officers to demand from, or require under penalty of law, an individual to accurately identify himself to police officers or other law enforcement.“

This is the definition that we have applied to the 50 states we looked into in this study.

Now to the results!

How stop and identify statutes are codified

Methods by Which Stop and Identify Statutes are Codified

Very rarely is a stop and identify statute called as such. As a result, stop and identify laws are codified through various statute types.

how stop and identify states are codified

The 4 core types of “Stop and Identify Statutes” include:

  • Terry stop laws, AKA laws about questioning suspects, stop and frisk, issuing summons or other reasonable suspicion. 50% of states with stop and identify statutes.
  • Detention for Identification, several states have specific laws requiring suspects to give legal name or ID upon request. Laws under this type go by names such as; failure to identify, failure to disclose, failure to provide truthful name, detention for Identification or concealing identity. 21.9% of states with stop and identify statutes.
  • Resisting Arrest, 2 states in our study included a stop and identify statute in their resisting arrest statutes. Included in this type are resisting officers,obstructing officers or obstructing justice statutes. 6.3% of states with stop and identify statutes.
  • Loitering, several states include stop and identify police power in their loitering statutes. 9.4% of states with stop and identify statutes.
  • Very Limited Statutes– 4 states had stop and identify statutes which were very limited in scope. These states were not considered stop and identify states per our definition. 12.5% of states with stop and identify statutes.

List of Stop and Identify States and Statutes

1. AlabamaSource15. MontanaSource
2. ArizonaSource16. NebraskaSource
3. ArkansasSource17. NevadaSource
4. ConnecticutSource18. New MexicoSource
5. DelawareSource19. New YorkSource
6. FloridaSource20. North CarolinaSource
7. GeorgiaSource21. North DakotaSource
8. HawaiiSource22. OhioSource
9. IllinoisSource23. Rhode IslandSource
10. IndianaSource24. TennesseeSource
11. KansasSource25. TexasSource
12. LouisianaSource26. UtahSource
13. MaineSource27. VermontSource
14. MissouriSource28. WisconsinSource

Why This New Interpretation of Stop and Identify Statutes Should be Adopted

The public record is littered with incomplete and misleading information regarding stop and identify states.

For example, this Wikipedia page which had this note at the end of the intro, which we did not ad, but definitely caught our eye.

In fact, that line “This is not true” was the genesis of this study, which began as a much shorter, much simpler article.

The 4 Core Sources of the Inaccuracies of the Current Record

Here’s the deal, the inaccuracies in the current public record are due to the following sources:

  1. A reliance on Hiibel v. Sixth Jud. Dist. Ct. of Nev., Humboldt Cty as an accurate or complete “list” of states with stop and identify statutes.
  2. A reliance on a chart of stop and identify states put together by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which is outdated, and pertains to immigrants, not the public at large.
  3. A Wikipedia page with insufficiently, and/or inaccurately cited information
  4. Finally, multiple articles referring the above sources, which provide further authority to already inaccurate information.

Here are 3 specific examples of states that are not included in previous lists, but absolutely should have been.

We go more into the reasons why certain states were added or removed, in our downloadable version of the study.

Example One: Texas Penal Code 38.02

Texas Penal Code 38.02 FAILURE TO IDENTIFY (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.

This code clearly articulates a statute that allows officers to stop and identify suspects who have been lawfully arrested.

In fact, it may be the most clearly stated “stop and identify statute” we have found.

Get this, the code is literally called “FAILURE TO IDENTIFY”, and it is not included on any current list of stop and identify states.

Example 2: The Unique Case of North Carolina

Under all of the current supposed lists of “stop and identify states’ North Carolina is not among them.

Yet, NC much like Nevada has court cases that prove this to be otherwise.

Take a look at State v. Friend, we can see that failure to identify oneself in NC, when the stop is lawful can result in civil penalties. Under the states § 14-223.  Resisting officers statute:

"the failure to provide information about one's identity during a lawful stop can constitute resistance, delay, or obstruction within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-223"

Before we go any further. Resisting officers is a terrible name for a statute, but could lead to a good pick up line.

In State v. Friend, William Friend, III was charged under the states “Resisting officers” statue when he refused to put on his seat belt, and was lawfully detained and failed to identify himself.

Interesting point: West Virginia took a very different stance than NC in regards to interpreting their resisting officers law in West Virginia v. Srnsky.

Example #3: New Hampshire Is No Longer a Stop and Identify State

New Hampshire was included in previous lists of stop and identify states, but their laws have changed. Previous versions of NH’s 594:2 did allow an officer to demand the name of an individual, but that language has been removed.

NH’s 594:2 Questioning and Detaining Suspects now reads as follows:

"A peace officer may stop any person whom the officer has reason to suspect is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. An officer may request the person's name and address, but the officer shall not arrest the person based solely on the person's refusal to provide such information."

Now, if such a law was permitted to qualified as a stop and identify statute, then every state would be a stop and identify state.

Which would render the term “stop and identify statute” useless. Any police officer with reasonable suspicion, probable cause etc. can go up to a suspect and ask him for his name and address.

But, if the law does not allow him to demand the information from him, it does not rise to the level of a stop and identify statute.

 <h2>Dispelling Misconceptions: 
What a Stop and Identify Statute is Not..</h2>

One: A law that allows officers to require your ID without reason

A stop and identify statute is not, in any state a statute which allows an officer to demand someone identify themselves without probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or lawful arrest/detainment. Such a statute or action would be unconstitutional.

Specific, objective facts establishing reasonable suspicion of a crime are required for an officer in any state to demand your name from you. (Hiibel 2004).

Two: Terry Stop or A Stop and Frisk

Although some stop and frisk statutes also include “stop and identify” clauses, they are not the same thing.

A Terry stop or stop and frisk can be conducted in any state where an officer suspects that illegal activity is occurring or is about to occur; and he for one reason or another suspects that he may be in danger.

Stop and identify statutes, like stop and frisk stem from the same case, but are two separate things.

Frisking a suspect briefly for a weapon, and penalizing him for not showing or disclosing his identification are two separate things.

1. Are Terry stops, stop and frisk, and stop and identify laws a violation of peoples’ rights, or are they simply a necessary part of enforcing the  law?

“Terry stops, stop and frisk and stop and identify laws, in an unbiased society would not be a violation of the rights of the people and a fair compromise between the rights of the individual person to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure, and the rights of the people collectively, to be protected against threats to harmonious society. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an unbiased society.”

“These laws are intended to give law enforcement the flexibility to investigate a threat to the community even when they don’t know enough to make an arrest; they are supposed to be investigative tools. Law enforcement’s decision to stop, frisk, and require a person to identify his or her self should be based on reasonable, articulable facts that lead the officer to believe that there is a need to stop a person and investigate.”

“Law enforcement’s decision to stop, frisk, and require a person to identify his or her self should be based on reasonable, articulable facts that lead the officer to believe that there is a need to stop a person and investigate.”



“For example, if an officer sees a person dressed in all black peeking through the windows of a home at night, it would be reasonable for that officer to decide to stop that person to determine if a crime is being committed or is in the process of being committed. On the other hand, it would not be reasonable for an officer to stop a person who is jogging in a neighborhood during the daytime to see what he’s up to.”

“So while we want to ensure that law enforcement is able to investigate when investigation is necessary, we also have to be aware that these types of investigations are carried out in a manner that disproportionately affects people of color and people living in poorer neighborhoods. What is more concerning, however, is that the public is generally only aware of these types of stops when they result in an arrest.” -Falen O. Cox

2. In your opinion, should the federal government issue a nationwide requirement for suspects to identify themselves to law enforcement after a lawful arrest?

“No, I don’t think this is necessary. In the vast majority of cases law enforcement is going to be able to correctly identify a suspect after arrest even if that suspect does not cooperate. Inventory searches and searches incident to lawful arrests are exceptions to the 4th Amendment’s search and seizure protection. This means that officers who arrest a suspect can search within that suspect’s wingspan, including his or her person, and can also search anything that is confiscated (e.g. can search the contents of a car that is impounded after arrest for a traffic violation or a person’s purse or backpack if he or she is wearing it at the time of arrest, a person’s pockets).”

“Most people would be easily identified as a result of these searches (driver’s license, car registration, credit cards, etc.). Additionally, an arrested person’s fingerprints are run through a database after booking and if the person has been arrested before there may be an alert.”

“As a practical matter most suspects will want to identify themselves since a refusal to identify oneself would very likely result in a denial of bail;”

“…one of the weightest factors a court weighs when it considers bond is whether the suspect will appear before the court when called if released, if a suspect refuses to identify him or herself it is very likely that decision will weigh heavily against them when bond is considered.” -Falen O. Cox

3. Is it generally a good idea to simply give an officer your name or identification upon request?  

“Generally, yes.”

“What steps do I take after my home is broken into? While a citizen may be well within his or her rights in refusing to provide law enforcement with his or her name or identification, exercising that right might not be the most practical thing to do in the vast majority of circumstances and even though the citizen might be vindicated the price of vindication might include an arrest and formal court proceedings.”

“While a citizen may be well within his or her rights in refusing to provide law enforcement with his or her name or identification, exercising that right might not be the most practical thing to do in the vast majority of circumstances and even though the citizen might be vindicated the price of vindication might include an arrest and formal court proceedings.”

“For example, in Georgia a person can be charged with obstruction by hindering if a person knowingly and willingly obstructs or hinders a law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of his or her official duties. Because people don’t often know what an officer is investigating or what information he or she has or is looking for, failing to identify yourself could theoretically result in a charge for obstruction by hindering if identification is needed for the officer to lawfully discharge his or her duties.”

“While I am sure that there must be some situation where it’s not advisable for a person to provide his or her name and identification to police, I can’t think of any.”

“In most instances refusal simply escalates a situation unnecessarily and sometimes results in arrests and all of the collateral consequences of arrest–and they are going to be able to identify you at that point anyway, there is no win.”


“It is also important that people who give their name and identifying information to law enforcement give the correct name and identifying information. In most jurisdictions it is a crime to give a false name, address, or date of birth to law enforcement.Lastly, even though people should provide their name and identification when requested, this does not mean that they should consent to searches, seizures, or questioning by law enforcement. They should give the requested identifying information, but still say no to searches and questioning.”

“After providing the information and allowing reasonable time for the officers to check it, a person should ask if they are free to leave. If so, they should leave. If they are told that they are not free to leave, ask if they are under arrest. And, if they are told that they are under arrest or are being detained, they should stay but invoke their right to remain silent and to an attorney if questioned.” -Falen O. Cox

Expert Bio: Falen O. Cox is an attorney, and Founding Partner and Director of Operation at Cox, Rodman & Middleton in Savannah, Georgia.

Connect with her on Facebook or at CRMAttorneys.com


1. Stop and identify statutes have been poorly defined, and as a result there is a lot of confusion about how many states actually have “stop and identify statutes”. How can a legal concept that carries such weight, simply become so “neglected”?

“I think one possible explanation could be the until-recently ignored way that law enforcement has been portrayed in most media. Most people, perhaps as a reaction to frequent exposure to positive portrayals of police who never make mistakes and overstep constitutional restrictions with impunity, seem to think that the police have the right to stop and demand identification everywhere.”

“And of course there is the added explanation that it takes a strong grasp of one’s rights and a certain amount of bravery to resist a command from an officer with a gun, regardless of their legal authority to issue the order.”

“If there was nearly as much exposure to portrayals or stories of citizens resisting unlawful interactions with the police, perhaps the concept and rights would be better understood.”

“The absence of a national standard makes this unlikely, but along with the push for a national use of force standard perhaps a push for a standard for citizens rights regarding “stop and identify” laws could be warranted.” -Jeffery Johnson

2. Are Terry stops, stop and frisk, and stop and identify laws a violation of peoples’ rights, or are they simply a necessary part of enforcing the  law?

“Personally, I believe they infringe on people’s fourth amendment rights. However, I will say that the larger issue is not the policies themselves but rather the grey area that they permit.”

“This was worse before bodycams started to be used, but it is still an issue.”

“Basically, I feel that having the right to pat down a suspect for a weapon or demand identification or stop at all creates another opportunity for an excuse to be found to justify an arrest after the fact. The subjective standards, coupled with motivations for officers to make arrests, are deeply problematic.” -Jeffery Johnson

3. Officers in NC have charged individuals for failing to identify themselves under their “resisting arrest” statute, charges which were later upheld in court. On the other hand, WV courts have ruled that failure to identify yourself to law enforcement is not “resisting arrest”. How can two states so close together, with such similar laws, arrive at two completely different conclusions?

“This is most likely a matter of judicial interpretation. Without being sure, I would speculate that each state’s supreme court has interpreted similar laws in these two different ways. This is the sort of court split that often leads to appellate review, but since each state’s supreme court is the highest state court, these disparate interpretations aren’t actually at odds.”

“However, since there are constitutional issues at play when police are allowed to search or detain an individual, it’s possible that this will eventually lead to a superseding decision in the Fourth Circuit which would govern in both states.” -Jeffery Johnson

4. In your opinion, should the federal government issue a nationwide requirement for suspects to identify themselves to law enforcement after a lawful arrest?

“No. If the arrest is lawful, it may be a best practice but in most instances the information will come out quickly enough. My concern is that some nationwide requirement of this sort (which I doubt would withstand constitutional scrutiny anyway) would not be limited to “lawful” arrests in the way it’s understood or enforced. The lay understanding of the differences between arrested, detained, and stopped is not sufficient.”

“Imagine a kid “stopped” by the police when they demand his name. He doesn’t provide it, which is now a violation of federal law, which changes this stop to an arrest. Now, imagine the kid has drugs on him. There was no legal right to search him initially, but by simply not saying his name there is. Of course, there was no valid lawful arrest, which means not saying his name was not a crime, but the precise order of these events (especially without body cameras) would be very hard to argue in court.”

“Basically, I feel like this is likely unconstitutional and provides another largely pretextual violation that would be abused and would have very little benefit, if any.” -Jeffery Johnson

5. How can we get the public to become more informed about the laws and statutes that govern their everyday lives?

“Unfortunately, most people don’t think a lot about laws unless they have a reason to. Perhaps the answer is a public campaign to increase awareness. Posters on buildings or in government offices might not be read by everyone, but any increase in awareness would be a positive. The law that most everyone knows is the speed limit, and this is because there are large, prominent signs all over the place…”

“Could we have large, prominent signs outlining rights during police interactions? We could, but only if the government felt that such a campaign of public education was in the government interest. I think it would be, but I fear many governments might feel otherwise.” -Jeffery Johnson

Expert Bio: Jeffrey Johnson worked with the Innocence Project while earning his JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He is the Managing Legal Editor of FreeAdvice.com.

Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter

The Bottom Line On Updating The View on Stop and Identify Statutes

In conclusion, the goal of this study was to update the view on stop and identify statutes, and which states should be classified as stop and identify states.

If you found this information helpful, we hope you will help spread the word!

And you can download the extended PDF of our study here.