If you are stopped by the police while driving, you are legally required to show them your driver’s license and insurance card when asked. Refusal to provide your license, or failure to carry it while driving, is a violation of California Vehicle Code (CVC) 12500. It is also a violation of this law if you have not renewed an expired license, never had a driver’s license, or became a California resident but did not renew your license within 10 days.
If you do not provide the officer with your Driver’s License while driving, you may be charged with a violation of CVC 12500 as either a misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction at the prosecutor’s discretion. If charged as an infraction, the penalty is a $250 fine, approximately. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty can result in up to six months in county jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Plus, if you drive on a suspended license, it is always considered a misdemeanor offense that can result in up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Typically, if you are a passenger in a car that the police pulled over, you do not need to comply with a request to show your ID. Just being a passenger is not enough legal justification for an officer to see your ID. But, if they do ask to see it, you will need to decide whether to comply.
Although non-drivers in California cannot legally be arrested just for refusing to provide their identification, the police may do so, anyway. And, although an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you get your case dismissed, the arrest alone can affect your reputation, livelihood, and future. Thus, sometimes it is wise to provide the police with your ID even though there is no legal requirement to do so.
For example, if you are on probation, it is essential to comply with the terms of your release – terms that almost always include a requirement not to get arrested. If you are on probation and get arrested, the result might well be a probation violation hearing and a return to incarceration.
Similarly, if you are a non-citizen, an arrest might lead to deportation.
If the police arrest you for failing to show your ID, you need skilled legal guidance from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. It’s within your rights to remain silent and demand to see your lawyer.