What is the US requirement for providing proof of identity?

What is the legal requirement for providing proof of identity, in the US?
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John DarbyPMAsked:
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Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
Depends on what you mean.  Generally speaking, Americans do not have to produce "proof of identity" at all.  

If you're doing some transaction that requires proof of citizenship, a birth certificate or passport usually suffices.  If you're operating a vehicle, you need a licence that identifies you as qualified to do so.  If you want to turn utilities on in a house or apartment, you usually have to prove you live there, but that can be as simple as a piece of mail with your name on it, going to that address.

If you're a foreign national visiting the U.S., your passport should be fine.  If you're a foreign national and plan on staying in the U.S.,  you need some sort of immigration paperwork, and that will depend on your immigration status.
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Tiras25Commented:
Paul gave a good comprehensive answer.
It depends on who wants proof?
Is it for a job?
A police officer who pulled you over?
Immigration and customs?
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John DarbyPMAuthor Commented:
Thank you, let me state a specific. Do citizens owe law enforcement proof of identity whenever requested?
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
Do citizens owe law enforcement proof of identity whenever requested?

In most states, yes.  When driving a vehicle, always.

If you don't cooperate it's "obstruction of justice" or "failure to comply" at which point you can be arrested.  Then you must provide identification.  Aside from that, annoying a cop is never productive.  He wants to be somewhere else and so do you.  Best to cooperate so both of you attain that goal.
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Tiras25Commented:
Loaded question.  You need to get into specifics here.  It depends.  In most places you only have to provide name and DOB, address if lawfully detained or arrested. There is no requirement to carry any ID.  Unless you're driving a car then yes, you need to have a DL.
Some states are known as "stop and ID states". Even there one could ask the basis of an investigation.

Look for YouTube videos like "First Amendment audit" These people test a location by recording from a public place and see how authority figures and others behave during their 'audit'.
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John DarbyPMAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone. I am exploring this topic a bit in a place least likely to cause inflammatory discussion. I teach martial arts and wanted to explore this topic to more depth and appreciate your insights! :)
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Paul SauvéRetiredCommented:
i don't think there is a legal requirement to produce ID when requested (unless operating a vehicle) in the US or in Canada.

however, if you give a false name, you can be charged with obstruction of justice or obstructing the police
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John DarbyPMAuthor Commented:
Thank you!
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BillDLCommented:
Hi John, I know the question has been closed, but I thought I would add something that may help your research.  Search YouTube for "Sovereign Citizen Gets Owned" (or similar).  In most cases law enforcement officers have just cause to have stopped a motorist and the "sovereign citizens" end up being detained in order that the law enforcers can establish their identities.

We have a situation in the UK where non-commercial drivers have no obligation to carry their driving licences at all times.  Provision is made for the cops to issue the driver with a form requiring them to produce the driving licence for inspection at a police office of the driver's own choosing within 7 days.  There is, however, provision in law that in certain circumstances (such as a vehicular collision) police may detain you for as long as is necessary to satisfy themselves of your identity if you do not have your driving licence.  Common sense tells you that, although you don't need to by law, it is in your best interest to carry your driving licence to avoid unnecessary complications that are quite legal.  It's a case of self-preservation, just like the principles of the martial arts that you teach.
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John DarbyPMAuthor Commented:
Thanks Bill; as you surmise, I am trying to wrap my head around the topic of personal identity and what is legally versus reasonably expected of citizens. I love the pro/con you have setup by contrasting your experience in the UK. Great help; thank you!
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