Being stopped by the police is one of the most stressful things an average person experiences. Even if you know you have done absolutely nothing wrong, being stopped by the police is an absolutely jarring experience.  One of the most common questions all of the attorneys at the law firm are asked is, “If I’m pulled over by the police, what do I do?. When you are stopped by the police in Indiana, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Am I Required to Show Identification

Indiana does not require an individual to present identification simply because law enforcement has requested it, however, this does not mean that you can refuse to identify yourself in every case. If the police stop you for an ordinance violation or traffic infraction, in Indiana, you are required to provide your name, address, and date of birth or your driver’s license to the investigating officer. This requirement is outlined in Indiana Code § 34-28-5-3.5 which states,

“A person who knowingly or intentionally refused to provide either the person’s

  1. name, address, and date of birth; or
  2. driver’s license, if in the person’s possession;

to a law enforcement officer who has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation commits a Class C misdemeanor.

Failure to identify yourself in this context is a Class C misdemeanor. This charge can carry a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. This criminal statute does not give officers unlimited power to request identification. 

  • If a police officer cannot articulate a good-faith belief that you have broken the law, he can request that you identify yourself, but you do not have to provide identification. 
  • If a police officer believes you have broken the law and as a result demands to see ID, you are required to provide identification.

If you are in the driver’s seat, it is probably best to hand over your license. This does not mean, however, that you are obligated to answer other questions or to make any kind of incriminating statements. 

What is a valid stop?

Following the United States Supreme Court, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that “a police officer’s subjective motives are irrelevant. . . and a stop will be valid provided there is an objectively justifiable reason for it.” State v. Hollins, 672 N.E.2d 427, 431 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996). For example, imagine you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and an officer says, “Hey, let me see some ID.” Can the officer demand your ID or just request your ID in this situation?

In this example, the officer is effectively making a request. There is no statute or law in Indiana that calls for you to identify yourself based on a police officer’s idle curiosity. If however, the officer were to follow that statement up with one explaining that he believes in good faith that you’ve committed an infraction or ordinance violation, he is able to demand your ID. While this may sound like a meaningful standard, the investigating officer doesn’t actually need to hold this belief in good faith—he just needs to assert it. 

Once the officer has asserted that belief and you have been stopped, the police are allowed to detain you. While the detention cannot be indefinite, it must last long enough to give the officer an opportunity to complete a few basic steps. Indiana Code § 34-28-5-3(a) outlines these:

(a) Whenever a law enforcement officer believes in good faith that a person has committed an infraction or ordinance violation, the law enforcement officer may detain that person for a time sufficient to:

(1) inform the person of the allegation;

(2) obtain the person’s:

(A) name, address, and date of birth; or

(B) driver’s license, if in the person’s possession; and

(3) allow the person to execute a notice to appear.

Again, if you are in the driver’s seat, it is probably best to hand over your license. But remember, you are not obligated to answer other questions or to make any incriminating statements. If you are the passenger in a vehicle that has been pulled over, things are a little different.

Traffic Stops as a Passenger: Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a passenger in a vehicle, it is crucial to be aware of your rights and responsibilities during a traffic stop. While there is no legal requirement for you to identify yourself solely because you’re in the passenger’s seat, there is one exception.

If you are observed by a law enforcement officer committing an ordinance violation, such as discarding trash from a moving vehicle, you are obligated to identify yourself upon the officer’s request. Understanding the nuances of these situations can help you navigate encounters with law enforcement more effectively.

Even as a passenger, it is important to recognize that you are still bound by an officer’s demands. If an officer instructs you to either remain inside the vehicle or exit it, compliance is not just advisable—it is legally required. Failure to adhere to such instructions could lead to serious consequences, including being charged with resisting law enforcement.

In instances where you find yourself at odds with an officer’s request, it’s crucial to maintain a calm and respectful demeanor. Any disagreements or concerns can be addressed later through legal channels rather than escalating the situation on the spot.

Being knowledgeable about your rights as a passenger empowers you to navigate traffic stops with confidence. By staying informed and remaining composed, you can ensure that your interactions with law enforcement are conducted in a manner that upholds both your rights and the law.

Navigating Police Interactions: Balancing Rights and Responsibilities

In the complex landscape of interactions with law enforcement, understanding the nuances between a request and a demand can be challenging. Striking the right balance is crucial, and a direct approach can sometimes be the most effective.

When uncertain, you are able to calmly inquire about the reason for the stop or request information. Exercising this right comes with a caveat—some officers may perceive it as a challenge to their authority. Despite this, standing on principle is supported by the law, especially in states like Indiana, where officers are mandated to articulate the cause for requesting identification.

Another issue that can complicate a stop is the lack of body cameras across many police agencies in Indiana. This places a premium on the credibility of official police accounts and reports. Recognizing this, you should maintain a calm and polite demeanor during exchanges with law enforcement while being mindful not to disclose more information than necessary. If necessary, it is well within your legal rights to record the interaction when police stop you. While this can provide an additional layer of accountability, many officers also see this as a challenge to their authority which can lead to an escalated situation.

When it comes to traffic stops, the scales often tip in favor of the State. Judges typically give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt, making it a challenge to dispute official accounts. Accusing the police of falsehoods is seldom a successful strategy in a courtroom. Navigating these interactions requires a delicate balance between asserting your rights and recognizing the authority of law enforcement within the bounds of the law.

Make the Right Call

Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, if you or a loved one was stopped by the police and charged with a crime, the Marc Lopez Law Firm is always available to help. Give us a call today at 317-632-3642 for a free consultation. Remember—always plead the 5th!