Being confronted by the police is an intimidating experience, and many people are unsure of their rights in such an event. In New Jersey, you might be required to identify yourself to law enforcement in certain circumstances.
In New Jersey, the law requires people to stop and provide their identification to law enforcement officials when asked. However, this requirement only applies to instances where the police are conducting an investigation or issuing a summons. The police can ask you to stop and identify yourself if they have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime. Beyond providing your identification, you do not have to answer any additional questions from the police. After the encounter, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
If the police stopped you about some suspected criminal activity, you might be in trouble. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help you take measures to protect yourself and your rights. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Does New Jersey Have “Stop and Identify” Laws?
“Stop and identify” laws are statutes that require people to stop when asked by the police and provide identification. Failure to identify yourself under these laws may result in additional penalties. New Jersey technically does not have any stop and identify laws in its statutes, but the same basic principle applies.
If the police are conducting an investigation or issuing a summons and ask you to stop and identify yourself, you must do so. Refusing to do so under these conditions might lead to some penalties down the road. If you recently encountered law enforcement, contact our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers about what you should do next.
Being stopped by the police for any reason is scary. To make matters more confusing, the police do not always clearly explain why they are stopping someone. After being told to stop and identify themselves, people might first ask the police why they are being stopped. Officers often respond by repeating their demand to stop and identify without any more information. People often feel they are being bullied into compliance, and they decide to remain silent to protect themselves. Our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys can help you if this sounds like your case.
When Can the Police Stop You and Ask Questions in New Jersey?
While the police are permitted to stop you and demand identification, you only have to answer them under certain circumstances. The police do not have unfettered authority to stop people and begin asking questions. There must be some real reason for the stop. If you were stopped or questioned by the police and are unsure why, talk to our Wildwood criminal defense lawyers. There is a chance your stop was unlawful.
Law enforcement officials cannot stop people arbitrarily or based on inarticulable “gut feelings.” Generally, there must be reasonable suspicion to justify stopping someone. Reasonable suspicion must be something real and identifiable. For example, if the police know a person wearing a red sweatshirt just robbed a nearby business, and they find you walking down the street wearing a red hoodie, the police have reasonable suspicion to stop you and ask for identification.
Reasonable suspicion does not have to be concrete evidence of a crime, nor are the police required to know for sure that you are the suspect they are looking for. In many cases, law enforcement officials quickly determine they have the wrong person and move on.
If there is no criminal investigation, the police can still ask you to stop and identify yourself if they are serving a summons. A summons is a formal and official demand for your appearance in court. A summons might be for something serious or minor, but it cannot be ignored. They are usually served by a sheriff or other law enforcement agent. The sheriff or officer must ensure they are serving the summons to the correct person, so a request for identification is necessary.
Refusing to Stop and Talk to the Police in New Jersey
If stopped by the police and asked to identify yourself, it is probably a good idea to comply, although you should not answer any questions beyond identification. Refusing to provide identification may lead to some rather unpleasant consequences. First, your encounter with the police will likely take longer as they now must try to identify you. Police officers are not known for their patience, especially in high-pressure situations like a criminal investigation. Refusing to identify yourself might agitate the officer and make them more inclined to arrest you, even if they do not have probable cause.
In some cases, people can be criminally charged if they refuse to identify themselves to the police because it hinders a criminal investigation. Knowingly interfering with or slowing down a criminal investigation is itself a criminal offense, and the police can arrest you if you continue to refuse to provide identification. In such a case, you should immediately contact our Ventnor criminal defense lawyers for help.
Do I Have to Answer Questions Beyond a Stop and Identify in New Jersey?
While it is probably in your best interest to comply with law enforcement’s demands and stop and identify yourself, that is where your compliance should end. If you are indeed being investigated regarding a crime, your right to remain silent is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Refusing to answer questions might annoy the police, and they might take you into custody. In that case, call our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys to be present with you during a post-arrest interrogation.
If the police do not have any reasonable suspicion to stop you and are not serving a summons, not only do you not have to stop and identify yourself, you do not have to answer any questions at all. If you find yourself stopped by the police and are not clear about why, ask them directly if you are free to leave. If they dodge the question or give an unclear answer, ask again. In many cases, the police will tell you that you are not in custody and are free to leave. Leave immediately when that happens and call our Sea Isle City criminal defense attorneys for help.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for Advice
If you were stopped by the authorities for seemingly no valid reason, a subsequent arrest might not be lawful. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can review your situation and help you protect yourself. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.