Can you be arrested if you don’t ‘show’ officer your identification?

Police chief David Roddy gives interview to Josh Rowe regarding his new job with the executive branch of city government. (Photo TV9)
(Identification article)
Chattanooga police chief David Roddy gives an interview to TV reporter Josh Roe at the police compound on Amnicola Highway. (Photo TV9)

In Tennessee, the failure or refusal to produce or give one’s identification is an offense only if the officer intends to either cite or arrest you for a crime or offense. And the law allows for an oral presentation of one’s ID apart from any state document.

When any police or peace officer *** asks the violator for identification,” Tennessee code annotated says, “for the purpose of issuing a citation or civil warrant to that person, the failure to produce or give such identification shall be grounds for the violator to be arrested by an officer ***.” [italics added]

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 96.9 FM

 The officer probably will demand that you show your ID. But the law is not so narrow. Notice the language of the requirement. The offense is failure to produce or give.

These two verbs describe distinct acts. A truthful statement giving one’s name, legal address and date of birth is sufficient for the officer to fill out the citation form in which you agree to appear in court to answer a criminal charge. The citation is in lieu of an arrest and warrant.

The officer should be content to believe your orally stated facts, because the transaction is protected by the false statement act, which forbids false information and makes it a crime to make a false statement to a cop.

Many people don’t have a state-issued ID. These include immigrants, migrants, poor people, Hispanics and constitution-minded belligerent claimants in person such as Arthur Jay Hirsch or the Gnome of Strawberry Plains, Tenn.

There is no law criminalizing the lack of a state ID per se. There is no charge of failure to have a state ID card or document.

Produce. Give. The statute uses both words. When one states one’s essential information in the encounter, one is not producing the information requested. One is giving it.

When one has a state issued ID, such as a driver license or a gun permit, one produces the information for the officer.

If you are arrested for giving your identifying details (ID for short) rather than producing your ID, you have grounds for litigation for false arrest and oppression.

You have a right to see a magistrate first

According to the rules of court, Rule 5, in this case you are not taken to jail, but to the magistrate. “Appearance Upon an Arrest. Any person arrested – except upon a capias pursuant to an indictment or presentment – shall be taken without unnecessary delay before the nearest appropriate magistrate of: (A) the county from which the arrest warrant issued; or (B) the county in which the alleged offense occurred if the arrest was made without a warrant, unless a citation is issued pursuant to Rule 3.5.

“(2) Affidavit of Complaint When No Arrest Warrant. An affidavit of complaint shall be filed promptly when a person, arrested without a warrant, is brought before a magistrate.”

The magistrate can try the charge on the spot “without regard to the plea,” prior to which time he advises the defendant of the charge and determines his plea. If you plead not guilty to a small offense, the magistrate may hear relevant evidence and sentence the defendant to pay a fine.

But the point to make is that you did not fail to give your identification, just did not “produce” one. You honored the law by stating facts about your name and legal address, and that the ill-treatment of arrest is false.

If magistrate convicts you, you have a right to a trial de novo — a nonjuried bench trial — in circuit or criminal court.

Sources: Rule 5, Tennessee rules of court

TCA 7-3-505.  Failure to produce identification — Arrest — Release — Bond.

 When any police or peace officer of a metropolitan government or any employee of a metropolitan government authorized to enforce ordinances, laws or regulations of the metropolitan government or charged with the duty to serve civil or criminal process, asks the violator for identification for the purpose of issuing a citation or civil warrant to that person, the failure to produce or give such identification shall be grounds for the violator to be arrested by an officer authorized to make arrests pursuant to title 40, chapter 7. In such event, the violator shall be arrested, transported to the police station or jail, booked, photographed and fingerprinted for identification purposes and, thereafter, shall be served with the citation or civil warrant and released from custody without being required to post a bond.

This 20-page legal notice lets you fight back vs. illicit ‘traffic stops’ — sue for damages, have defense in your criminal case


  1. Ken Walters
    • marshall dixon
  2. Beavis
  3. Shelby Allen Hill
  4. Timothy Brown
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  7. David Tulis

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