Colorado’s “stop and identify” laws require you to show the police your ID if the police 1) pull you over for a traffic violation, or 2) detain you on a reasonable belief of criminal activity.
But aside from those two instances, you are not required to identify yourself to police or to answer their questions.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. When do I have to show police my ID in Colorado?
- 2. What if I give police a fake name or refuse to answer?
- 3. What if the police start asking me other questions?
- 4. How do I know if I am being detained?
- 5. What if the police do not read my Miranda rights?
1. When do I have to show police my ID in Colorado?
There are two instances of police contact where Colorado law requires you to show law enforcement your identification (if they ask):
- You allegedly commit a traffic violation, and the police conduct a traffic stop. Note that you also have to show police your registration and proof of insurance in addition to your driver’s license (if they ask); or1
- The police detain you because they suspect you have – or are about to – break the law. Note that if you do not have your ID on you, you still have to tell police your name and address (if they ask).
Otherwise, you can decline a law enforcement officer’s request to see your ID. If you are unsure if you are being detained, you can ask if you are free to leave. If they answer no, then you must show your ID if asked because you are being detained.2
Note that if you are a passenger in a car during a traffic stop, you do not have to show the police your ID. Only the driver does. But if the police suspect you of committing a crime, then you would have to show your ID.3
2. What if I give police a fake name or refuse to answer?
Giving police false identifying information is a crime under Colorado state law. The district attorney typically prosecutes it as a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to 120 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $750 in fines
But if the false information substantially hindered police in their criminal case investigation or making an arrest, then defendants would be charged with a class 6 felony. A criminal conviction carries:
- 12 to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.4
Refusing to give your name at all is not in and of itself a crime. But it can be a contributing factor that leads police to arrest you for obstruction of a peace officer (CRS 18-8-104).5
3. What if the police start asking me other questions?
Colorado law does not require you to provide police additional information other than your identification during a traffic stop or a detainment. But a lot of people when confronted by police get scared and start spouting a lot of things they should keep to themselves.
Remember that anything you say the police will write down or record, and it can be used against you if the D.A. decides to file charges. Even if the police officer is being sympathetic and understanding, the officer is looking for any reason to arrest you.
Therefore, people are advised to remain calm and respectful and to kindly decline to answer the police if they persist in asking you questions.
If the police stop results in you getting a pat-down or being arrested, continue to remain silent – it is your Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination to not speak to law enforcement.6
4. How do I know if I am being detained?
In Colorado, you can always ask the police if are free to go. If they say yes, you are not being detained. If they say no, then you are. The police cannot detain you for any longer than required to decide whether there is probable cause to arrest you.7
Remember that during a detainment, you are only obligated to give police your name, address, and ID if they ask. And if it is a traffic stop, you need to provide your driver’s license and proof of registration and insurance. Other than that, you do not have to – and are advised not to – answer any questions.8
Note that if the police are detaining you for allegedly committing a crime, the police are allowed to conduct a pat-down (called a “stop and frisk” or “Terry stop”) if they have a reasonable suspicion you are armed.9
5. What if the police do not read my Miranda rights?
It is a common misconception that police are required to read people their Miranda Rights as soon as they are being arrested for a criminal offense, usually while the handcuffs are being put on. But Colorado criminal law does not require law enforcement to tell arrestees that they have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney until the police begin to interrogate them – called “custodial interrogation.”10
So if you are arrested and get taken into a room for questioning, the police would need to read you your Miranda Rights before they start questioning you. But if you simply get arrested, booked, and released on bail or your own recognizance without being questioned, then the police do not have to Mirandize you at all.
Arrested? Contact our Colorado criminal defense lawyers to know your rights and to discuss how we may be able to get your criminal charges reduced through a plea bargain or dismissed.
We defend against all types of criminal charges including Colorado DUI, domestic violence, sexual assault, tampering, motor vehicle theft, license revocations, and more.
Our law firm practices in Denver, Colorado Springs, Loveland, Arapahoe and throughout the state.
See our related article, Colorado “stop and identify” law – What are my rights?
- Colorado Revised Statute 42-2-115. CRS 42-4-1409. CRS 42-3-121.
- CRS 16-3-103.
- See note 1.
- CRS 18-8-111.5.
- See, for example, Dempsey v. People (Colorado Supreme Court, 2005) 117 P.3d 800 (“We have held that to justify such a limited intrusion, a police officer must have an articulable and specific basis in fact for suspecting that criminal activity has occurred or is about to take place…The governing analysis [is for the trial court to look] to the totality of the circumstances, not segregated instances.”)
- The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (See also the Fourth Amendment re. criminal procedure for search warrants and arrest warrants.)
- People v. Castaneda (2011) .
- People v. Rodriguez (1997) 945 P.2d 1351. See notes 1 and 2.
- Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1.
- Miranda v. Arizona, (1966) 384 US 436. CRS 16-3-406. House Bill 23-1155.