California laws are very clear about how drivers need to present identification during a traffic stop. When a police officer pulls a driver over for a traffic infraction, they will demand state-issued identification along with registration paperwork and proof of valid insurance as well.
However, some police officers will use a traffic stop as an excuse to look into multiple people. They might pull someone over for a minor infraction because they see a carload of adults as an opportunity to look for people with outstanding warrants. They could also hope to find people without the right immigration documentation.
Can a police officer demand identification from the passengers in a vehicle during a traffic stop?
No, passengers do not need to identify themselves
Someone riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle may not even have their ID with them. After all, they didn’t intend to drive, they may have left their wallet at home. Not everyone carries state identification at all times.
If a passenger does not have state-issued identification or immigration documents on them or if they choose not to provide it to the police, they do not break the law with such a refusal. The police cannot use that as grounds to arrest or detain the individual.
In some cases, the passengers in the vehicle have rights, such as the right to challenge the traffic stop even if the driver does not. After all, anyone in the vehicle is effectively detained by the traffic stop even though the passengers are in no way implicated in the traffic offense. Misconduct by the police during the traffic stop could impact the defense options of the people arrested.
Learning more about the law can help you stand up for your rights when dealing with the police in California.