I was walking home one afternoon and a police cruiser pulled over in front of me , an officer got out of the vehicle and approached me asking for ID. My question is on what legal grounds do they have to stop and ID me for no apparent reason other then I was there walking. he offered no explanation for this stop. I offered up my ID and I asked what this was about, he said you match a description of someone we are looking for and proceed to run my name. Is this legal or does he need to have probable cause to ask for my ID. Again I had done nothing but walking down street. What if I did not have an ID in my possession could I have been arrested for failure to have ID? there seems to be a lot of grey area in regards to my rights and the legality of this stop or stops like it.
A person peacefully walking down the streets in WA has no legal duty to interact with law enforcement. The person can decline to show law enforcement any document. A person driving has to show the driver's license because that is part of the contract the person agreed to in getting the driver's license.
On the other hand, the person risks that the police does have some sort of information unknown to the person that would allow the police to arrest the person until the person's identity is confirmed. So, if several other persons have just called to report a bank robber giving a description of the robber that resembles you, you may well be arrested and held up to 72 hours while the police verifies your identity.
If you do not like how the officer interacted with you, you can report the officer to his supervisors at his department. The persons there may or may do anything with your information.
No, you are not legally obligated and an officer does not need probable cause to contact you socially and ask for ID. However, if you had refused, based on the circumstances you describe, the officer could have detained you until he ascertained you were not involved in a crime. In this case, all that is required is a reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts, not probable cause. One would argue it is reasonable for an officer to suspect that you could be the person he seeks based on matching the description he was provided. No, you do not need to carry ID to walk down the street and you could not have been arrested for failing to provide a hard copy of ID. What would have happened is the officer would have asked you for your name and date of birth and run your name that way. If you are interested in the history of the law surrounding stops like this, you should read the case of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed.2d 889 (1968), the text of which can be easily located on the internet.
The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not considered to be legal advice.
At the risk of piggybacking Miss Bouffiou's answer, her answer and explanation is spot on. As a former law enforcement officer (reserve), I can tell you that a smart officer usually begins any contact with the question, "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions." If the person answers in the affirmative, the contact becomes completely voluntary, as does any incriminating responses the person may utter.
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