Can you leave the house without your ID? It seems like a silly question to most, but with some shifts in state immigration laws, it has become a serious question.
In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to carry your ID on you at all times. But here's what you might expect in the real world:
When You Leave Your Home...
Despite the questionable legal status of Arizona's immigration laws, there is no place in the nation where simply being in public without ID is illegal.
However, there are several states in which it is an arrestable offense if you refuse to identify yourself to police. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that these kinds of laws can be legal, as long as the officers had reasonable suspicion to detain you in the first place.
In states with these laws, like Arizona and Nevada, you may be required to give police your full legal name. But you don't have to answer any other questions, and you shouldn't need any form of identification.
When You're in a Store...
Federal courts have held that certain stores may legally require you provide ID in order to make a return. You can also be legally required to show ID for the purchase of alcohol, tobacco, or even cold medicine.
When You're Driving...
Driving without a license is a crime in all states and in Washington, D.C. This means you need to have your valid driver's license on hand if an officer stops you while driving. Failing to show proof of a valid license is a lesser offense than not having a license at all, but it can still be a crime.
When You Vote...
There is a rising trend in many states to require photo IDs to be presented in order to vote. The federal government sued Texas over its voter ID law in August, claiming that the law discriminated against ethnic minorities.
If your state has one of these laws, it may be legal for ballot officials to require you to show a form of photo ID. Contact a local civil rights attorney if you feel your state's laws are keeping you from voting.
If you're not involved in one of the activities above, you should be OK to not carry your ID.
- Find a Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- When do I have to show ID? (KnowMyRights.org)
- Are Voter ID Laws Legal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Driving Without a Valid Driver's License: State Laws (FindLaw)
- Can a State Make it a Crime to Refuse to Identify Yourself to the Police? (FindLaw's Writ)