Bicycle driving license???

March 2, 2017 § 72 Comments

You get pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign on your bicycle. The cop asks for your driver license or other identification. Do you have to provide it?

Before answering this question, let’s start with common sense, and common sense says this: It’s always a good idea to have a driver license or state-issued ID when you cycle. Motorists are known for hitting bikes and leaving the cyclist unconscious or worse. Identification in these cases is generally a good thing.

Also, when a cop asks you for identification and you refuse or don’t have any, you run the risk of having your ride interrupted and your bike impounded. You may be vindicated many hours or days or weeks or months later, but standing on your rights when challenged always comes at a cost, a cost that at a minimum will cost you that KOM attempt up Mandeville.

But back to the question: Do you have to provide it?

California law requires users of motor vehicles to provide their license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of the California vehicle code. That’s section 12951(b), by the way. However, since a bicyclist is not a driver of a motor vehicle, you may think that you get a pass.

You’d be wrong.

California law explicitly makes the vehicle code applicable to bicyclists. Section 21200(a) says that every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. In other words, if the driver of a motor vehicle has to show his license or ID to a cop who’s enforcing the vehicle code, so do you.

What this means is that even though you’re not technically required to have something called a bicycle driving license, if you ever get pulled over for breaking the law and can’t produce satisfactory ID to the peace officer, you can be arrested and your bike impounded, which is an end-run around “no bike driving license required” because it does in effect require you to have a license in the form of acceptable identification.

So ride with your driver license if you have one. That’s my advice.

END

Addendum: Due to the numerous comments and questions, I’ve added the following:

Are you required to have something called a “bicycle license” or its equivalent to operate a bicycle on public roads? No.

Are you required to have some form of ID if you are pulled over for violating a traffic law? Yes.

If you’re required to ride with some form of ID in the event you’re pulled over, isn’t that a de facto bicycle license? It may not require you to take a test or pay insurance, but if the absence of ID while riding a bike can get you arrested, then I would argue that you are indeed required to ride with something that is in at least one crucial respect the same as a driving license–it proves who you are when the police detain you.

If you believe that you as a bicyclist are immune from this requirement, it is easy to test. The next time you’re pulled over, tell the officer that you refuse to identify yourself. I predict you will be arrested.

This was my main point: That even though we aren’t required to have something called a “bicycle license,” the fact that we can be arrested in certain situations for failure to produce ID when riding a bicycle means that we are in fact quite close to having to be licensed. We can argue about the type of ID, and about police discretion to require you to produce it, but in the end if they want to force you to ID yourself, they can. Try it if you really think I’m wrong about this.

Now there is the second point. What is the legal underpinning for requiring a bicyclist to produce an ID? California no longer has a statute requiring people to ID themselves to police on demand. That law, Penal Code §647(e), has been repealed.

What follows are excerpts from a brief on investigative detentions, published by the DA of Alameda County. You can find it at: http://le.alcoda.org/publications/point_of_view/files/DETENTIONS.pdf

The landmark case of Terry v. Ohio authorizes police to stop and detain a suspect temporarily if they had a lower level of proof known as “reasonable suspicion.” Once stopped, “an officer conducting a lawful Terry stop must have the right to make this limited inquiry, otherwise the officer’s right to conduct an investigative detention would be a mere fiction.” People v. Loudermilk, (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 996, 1002.

This is also the opinion of the Supreme Court, which added that identifying detainees also constitutes an appropriate officer-safety measure. “Obtaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder.” Hiibel v. Nevada (2004) 542 U.S. 177, 186.

Not only do officers have a right to require that the detainee identify himself, they also have a right to confirm his identity by insisting that he present “satisfactory” documentation.104 “[W]here there is such a right to so detain,” explained the Court of Appeal, “there is a companion right to request, and obtain, the detainee’s identification.” People v. Rios (1983) 140 Cal.App.3d 616, 621.

A current driver’s license or the “functional equivalent” of a license is presumptively “satisfactory” unless there was reason to believe it was forged or altered. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1186. Also see People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 620.

A document will be deemed the functional equivalent of a driver’s license if it contained all of the following: the detainee’s photo, brief physical description, signature, mailing address, serial numbering, and information establishing that the document is current. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1187. While other documents are not presumptively satisfactory, officers may exercise discretion in determining whether they will suffice. People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 622 [“[W]e do not intend to foreclose the exercise of discretion by the officer in the field in deciding whether to accept or reject other evidence—including oral evidence—of identification.”

So hopefully you agree that when you get pulled over as a suspect for breaking the law, the police have the right to demand ID and you are obligated to produce it.

I read “but not limited to” in CVC 21200 to mean that bicyclists’ duties are much broader than the cited divisions, and that’s why it says “not limited to.” Legislative history and drafting notes of the law would possibly clear that up.

I also agree that section 12591(b) explicitly applies to cars, and cannot be used as a bootstrap to somehow require bicyclists to have a “bicycling license.” But I also believe that 12591(b), in conjunction with Terry and its progeny, provides additional proof that if you are stopped by a peace officer enforcing the traffic code, you are required to provide ID. And I believe that a good brief on appeal would use that code section to show that the CVC has a strong interest in identifying all public road users when they are cited for a crime, in line with the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry. The fact that you are on a bicycle when the crime is committed will not, and should not, exempt you from this most basic investigative function of the police.

What’s key, and the point I was making, is that as a bicyclist there are excellent legal reasons to carry a CDL if you have one, and some other form of ID if you do not. There are also excellent practical reasons for carrying ID that have to do with how you interface with law enforcement. They can arrest you if you refuse to identify yourself, and if you are truculent about it, they will.

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§ 72 Responses to Bicycle driving license???

  • LesB says:

    How does this apply to kids who are too young to get a driver’s license?

    • fsethd says:

      I suppose it means that if they’re pulled over for an infraction they have to provide some kind of acceptable ID.

      • channel_zero says:

        Back in the day (I’m old) I didn’t have a driving license and was pulled over a couple of different times in the desert on motorcycles, and in the city on bicycles. I was given some kind of citation that basically amounted to me sending $40 in the mail somewhere because I was not enrolled in California DMV anything.

        These days, identification requirements are much stricter, so having a State-issued ID is practically mandatory.

        Does that enable PD to give out traffic citations with the same impact as a driving license? There are a few law enforcement professionals reading your blog. Maybe they know the answer.

      • fsethd says:

        Impact, i.e. “points,” depends on the court. Courts have discretion to send points to DMV for bicycle infractions or not.

  • Glenn M. says:

    Well, shit, that makes sense. When I ride, I carry my expired CA DL which looks nothing like me since I’m 50 lbs heavier but it still identifies me as me.

    • fsethd says:

      I think they have a lot of discretion. I’ve been pulled over with no ID and simply given them my CDL number, which they then run, write me the ticket, and let me go.

  • Matthew Hall says:

    I got a state ID card that is always with me on a bike. It was easy to get, and the trip to the DMV reaffirmed that I love where I work…

  • PatrickGSR94 says:

    I ride with my wallet, containing my DL, because you know, I want people to be able to identify me should I crash or become unconscious (or worse) for whatever reason. But I still don’t see why anyone should HAVE to ride with an ID. What about kids riding all over town who don’t have a DL or any other picture ID?

    • fsethd says:

      I don’t have a good answer, except that law enforcement has the right to demand ID once you’ve been detained, and they also appear to have the right to demand ID if they are enforcing the vehicle code.

      • You are right that in practice cops can and will harass you, and might invent some pretext to arrest and hold you, if they don’t see you as sufficiently submissive and “cooperative”.

        But…

        “Law enforcement has the right to demand ID once you’ve been detained.” Actually, no.

        In the Hiibel decision, the Supreme Court upheld a demand for verbal self-identification, but (a) only because a state statute required it (California has no such statute), and (b) subject to the Supreme Court’s reading of the Nevada law that Hiibel could have satisfied the law by verbally identifying himself, without producing any documents. The Hiibel decision makes it important to distinguish between verbal self-identification and production of ID credentials.

        For some of my analysis for the Identity Project of recent Court of Appeals decisions on ID requirements in states that, unlike California, do have identify-if-stopped-for-investigation statutes, see:

        https://papersplease.org/wp/2017/02/14/the-right-to-anonymous-pedestrian-travel-and-protest/

        https://papersplease.org/wp/2017/02/21/the-right-to-record-police-anonymously/

        As for your reading of the California Vehicle Code, the provision requiring operators of motor vehicles to, under certain circumstances, produce their licenses to operate those vehicles, “by its very nature” can have no applicability to operators of bicycles, for which no such licenses exist.

        In addition, CVC 21200(a) makes those provisions of the vehicle code that are applicable to operators of “vehicles” generally applicable to operators of bicycles. But CVC 12951 is *explicitly* limited to “motor vehicles”.

        The CVC generally defines vehicles as motorized (counterintuitively, but so it goes). The qualifiying word “motor” in CVC 12951 would be meaningless redundancy (which is disfavored as a matter of statutory construction), except as an indicator that CVC 12951 is limited to *motor* vehicles and that CVC 21200(a) does *not* apply to CVC 12951.

        In other words, operators of bicycles are treated under the CVC as operators of vehicles (defined as not vehicles, but assigned the same rights and obligations), but not as *motor* vehicles.

        Even if a California cop decides that there is probable cause to cite you for some traffic or other violation (more than the reasonable suspicion required to support an investigative Terry stop), they can still issue a citation (rather than taking you before a judge to set bail or release on your own recognizance and promise to appear) if you don’t have any ID.

        CVC 40500(a) explicitly provides for the issuance of a citation to a person who does not have any evidence of ID in their possession: “If the arrestee does not have a driver’s license or other satisfactory evidence of identity in his or her possession, the officer may require the arrestee to place a right thumbprint, or a left thumbprint or fingerprint if the person has a missing or disfigured right thumb, on the notice to appear.”

        The bottom line: If ticketed as a bicyclist in California for a traffic infraction, you can be required to state your name and provide your fingerprint, but not to provide any ID documents.

      • You are right that in practice cops can and will harass you, and might invent some pretext to arrest and hold you, if they don’t see you as sufficiently submissive and “cooperative”.

        But…

        “Law enforcement has the right to demand ID once you’ve been detained.” Actually, no.

        In the Hiibel decision, the Supreme Court upheld a demand for verbal self-identification, but (a) only because a state statute required it (California has no such statute), and (b) subject to the Supreme Court’s reading of the Nevada law that Hiibel could have satisfied the law by verbally identifying himself, without producing any documents. The Hiibel decision makes it important to distinguish between verbal self-identification and production of ID credentials.

        For some of my analysis for the Identity Project of recent Court of Appeals decisions on ID requirements in states that, unlike California, do have identify-if-stopped-for-investigation statutes, see:

        https://papersplease.org/wp/2017/02/14/the-right-to-anonymous-pedestrian-travel-and-protest/

        https://papersplease.org/wp/2017/02/21/the-right-to-record-police-anonymously/

        As for your reading of the California Vehicle Code, the provision requiring operators of motor vehicles to, under certain circumstances, produce their licenses to operate those vehicles, “by its very nature” can have no applicability to operators of bicycles, for which no such licenses exist.

        In addition, CVC 21200(a) makes those provisions of the vehicle code that are applicable to operators of “vehicles” generally applicable to operators of bicycles. But CVC 12951 is *explicitly* limited to “motor vehicles”.

        The CVC generally defines vehicles as motorized (counterintuitively, but so it goes). The qualifiying word “motor” in CVC 12951 would be meaningless redundancy (which is disfavored as a matter of statutory construction), except as an indicator that CVC 12951 is limited to *motor* vehicles and that CVC 21200(a) does *not* apply to CVC 12951.

        In other words, operators of bicycles are treated under the CVC as operators of vehicles (defined as not vehicles, but assigned the same rights and obligations), but not as *motor* vehicles.

        Even if a California cop decides that there is probable cause to cite you for some traffic or other violation (more than the reasonable suspicion required to support an investigative Terry stop), they can still issue a citation (rather than taking you before a judge to set bail or release on your own recognizance and promise to appear) if you don’t have any ID.

        CVC 40500(a) explicitly provides for the issuance of a citation to a person who does not have any evidence of ID in their possession: “If the arrestee does not have a driver’s license or other satisfactory evidence of identity in his or her possession, the officer may require the arrestee to place a right thumbprint, or a left thumbprint or fingerprint if the person has a missing or disfigured right thumb, on the notice to appear.”

        The bottom line: If ticketed as a bicyclist in California for a traffic infraction, you can be required to state your name and provide your fingerprint, but not to provide any ID documents.

      • fsethd says:

        Hiibel was a case for stop-and-id laws and is not relevant to this discussion, which is “Under what circumstances, if any, must you show ID to law enforcement if you’re a cyclist?”

        The argument about CVC 12591(b) is that there is sound legal basis for law enforcement to require an ID when enforcing the traffic code. I’ve agreed that the provision is specific to motor vehicles, and began with the statement that there is no requirement that you have a “bicycle license.” However, CVC 12200 has a brought catch-all phrase, “not limited to,” that would give a reviewing court ample grounds for ruling that ID in traffic stops have significant foundation and precedent in existing law.

        To continue to suggest that I’m claiming bicyclists are specifically subject to 12591(b) isn’t helpful.

        Your citation to CVC 40500(a) proves my point. Ready it carefully again and note the word “arrestee.” This means someone who has been arrested, which is much broader than being detained. Once you have been arrested, but only then, may you get off with a citation and a thumbprint. Is this the rule of the road you now advocate for your friends? “No need to carry an ID because once you’re arrested they will let you go with a thumbprint.”

        The goal is to avoid arrest and not be cuffed, put in the back of a car, and taken to jail. The goal is to continue with your ride. If you are pulled over for breaking the law, Terry unquestionably gives them the right to demand your ID, and subsequent court cases, cited at length, specify what those acceptable forms of ID are. Only if arrested for breaking the law, and devoid of any written ID, will you be allowed to “simply” be cited and let go with a thumbprint.

        The bottom line: If you are stopped for violation of the law, there are many instances in which you MUST show ID or you will be arrested. There are other instances, many of which are governed by officer discretion, in which you need not show ID and can continue on. Moral of the story: Carry your CA ID or CDL.

        And for those who want to stand on what they think their rights are, the ball is in your court. Not by posting on my blog, but by going out, getting stopped, and telling the cop that you won’t ID yourself. Keep me apprised.

      • Serge Issakov says:

        Thanks Ed.
        I remember when going to France the first time that I should always have my ID (passport) in my position, because, unlike here, it was legally required.

        In addition to 12951 applying specifically only to drivers of vehicles, 21200 explicitly limits itself to Division 11 (“this division ” – the “rules of the road”) and a smattering of sections from other divisions. 12951 is in Division 6.

        I’m concerned about Seth publishing his opinion that 21200 means all sections of all divisions of the CVC, including 12951 of Division 6,
        apply to bicyclists.

      • fsethd says:

        See my response to Ed. Thanks for the commentary, by the way.

    • channel_zero says:

      Waaaaaaayyyy back in the day, it was no problem. You’d give them your name and an address that might or might not be current and get a citation that cost a few bucks. Write a small check and send it in the mail.

      I had a few of these citations with LAPD and other local law enforcement types. I’m an old guy. I have no idea how it would play out now.

  • Louis says:

    What about kids on bikes?

    • fsethd says:

      See my responses below. Law enforcement has discretion here, but if you’re detained, i.e. not free to go, or if you’ve been stopped while they are enforcing the vehicle code, my take on it is that you have to provide some type of ID.

  • dangerstu says:

    How about a photo copy?

    • fsethd says:

      Police have discretion to accept whatever they want. But I’m not sure why so many people ride with photocopies, except that maybe it’s a hassle to always be switching back and forth from wallet to bike bag.

  • darelldd says:

    Pro tip I can offer after losing my DL (twice!) whilst riding: I found that a CA ID is cheap, official, does all you need it to do while riding. And if you lose it, the rest of your life isn’t screwed. $15, I think. They just copy all info of you DL, so no long forms.

  • Scott Dion says:

    What about the qualifying criteria for a law enforcement officer to require you to show ID in the first place. This text would have been a great place to include that.

    • fsethd says:

      That gets back to probable cause for a traffic stop. My point if you really want to stand on your rights, or more accurately, find out what your rights are, then refusing to provide ID will get you there quickly. If you just want to accept the citation (which isn’t an admission of guilt) and keep riding, an ID is a great way to go.

    • It’s discussed in this blog post from the Southern California ACLU:

      https://www.aclusocal.org/en/news/california-you-have-right-not-show-your-id-law-enforcement-most-cases

      “A person who is not suspected of a crime has no obligation to identify herself. Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California (unlike some other states), he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason. The officer can ask for ID, but the person can say no. “

      • fsethd says:

        I read that. Devoid of any legal citations whatsoever. Would be nice of them to have published their brief.

        Also, a good discussion on Daily KOS. Google “Hiibel Daily Kos” and it comes right up.

        Thanks for the excellent commentary, by the way.

      • Some of the supporting citations are in the training memo agreed to by the Barstow Police as part of the settlement, linked from that article:

        https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/doc02773720150521123440.pdf

        “A person need not identify himself, nor even talk to a police officer. (Kolender v. Lawson (1983) 461 U.S. 352 [75 L.Ed.2nd 903]; Brown v. Texas (1979) 443 U.SD. 47, 52 [61 L.Ed.2nd 357].). Even during a lawful detention, members of the public are under no duty to answer questions, answers may not be compelled, and refusal to answer furnishes no basis for an arrest. (Carey v. Nev. Gaming Control Bd., 279 F.3d 873, 881-82 (0th Cir. 2002)….

        “The courts have held that a peace officer may “demand” that a detained person properly identify himself. (United States v. Christian (9th Cir. 2004) 356 F.3rd 1103). However, this does not mean that the person is required to answer….

        “Under California law, a detained suspect cannot be forced to identify himself, or be subject to arrest for refusing to do so.

        “While the United States Supreme Court ruled in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Court of Nevada (2004) 542 U.S. 177 [159 L.Ed. 2nd 292] that a state could could constitutionally make it a misdemeanor to identify oneself when lawfully detained in a non-vehicular situation (as Nevada has), California has no such statute.”

        You are right that a cop ignorant of the law might try to run you in for not carrying ID while bicycling, or if you say you do have ID but refuse to show it.

        But the idea that you are always required to show ID if detained is a myth — as the Barstow Police conceded in response to this ACLU lawsuit, and agreed to train their officers.

        In California, only the operator of a motor vehicle is required to produce their license. And that provision of the CVC, as we’ve been discussing in this thread, is explicitly limited to operators of *motor* vehicles.

        You don’t have to have, carry, or show ID to bike, even if stopped by a cop while bicycling.

        California has not enacted any statute extending to bicyclists the requirement for drivers of motor vehicles to show licenses or ID if detained. I and many others would strongly oppose any such proposal.

      • fsethd says:

        You keep referring to Hiibel, which has nothing to do with this. I’ve not cited it. Why keep bringing it up? It’s inapposite.

        1. Kolender invalidated a loitering statute and its requirement for ID with the explicit exception cases where there was probable cause to arrest. Again, wrong case, wrong topic, wrong conclusion.

        2. Carey invalidated a statue that does not exist in CA, like Hiibel. Wrong case, wrong issue.

        3. Brown was an arrest for failure to identify though no probable cause to arrest. Wrong case, wrong issue, wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re obviously cutting and pasting and not reading these cases.

        I’m not going to review the entire body of law regarding Terry stops, probable cause to arrest, arrest, and detention.

        Draw your own conclusions. If you think there are never any situations in which a stopped biker must show ID, then ride without one. It makes no difference to me.

        In my opinion there is plenty of precedent and statutory authority, and I’ve cited it, to suggest that there are circumstances in which, without an ID, you’ll be hauled off to jail. I’ve made the argument as best I can, and look forward to hearing about your experiences when refusing to produce ID.

      • fsethd says:

        Other notes: US v. Christian rejects that it is never reasonable to demand ID during a Terry stop.

        And, from Adams v. Williams, “[a] brief stop of a suspicious individual, in order to determine his identity or to maintain the status quo momentarily while obtaining more information, may be most reasonable in light of the facts known to the officer at the time.”

        US v. Osborn: Because the officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, we held that his request for identification, questions about the suspect’s prior contacts with law enforcement, and a check for outstanding warrants or previous arrests, were all within the scope of the officer’s authority.

        There is a whole slew of law on this, and it supports my argument in law, and my argument in common sense, that if you’re on a bike there are situations in which you must be able to provide satisfactory ID.

      • You are missing the distinction made in these cases between authority to stop and investigate someone’s identity, or the entitlement of an officer to *request* ID or ask questions about identity, and the lack of obligation to answer questions or provide evidence of ID (even when the request is stated as a “demand”). No California statute requires someone other than the operator of a motor vehicle to show ID documents, even if they are stopped (detained) for investigation, and even if a request for evidence of ID is phrased as a demand.

        You don’t want to consider cases involving investigative stops or ID requests of pedestrians as relevant to this question. But in the absence of a statute creating a specific obligation for *cyclists* to show ID, or applying the obligation of motor vehicle operators to show their licenses to cyclists, a cyclist has the same obligation (or lack thereof) to show ID when detained for investigation of a possible violation of the CVC (or any other statute) as does a *pedestrian* detained for investigation of a violation of the CVC (e.g. jaywalking), an equestrian, or an unlicensed operator of a horse-cart detained for investigation of a violation of the CVC.

        You have not pointed to any California statute which requires a pedestrian, cyclist, equestrian, or operator of any other nonmotorized conveyance for which no license is required to show ID when detained for investigation of a suspected violation of the CVC (or of any other statute). I don’t believe that there is such a statute.

      • fsethd says:

        Here is the statute: CVC 40302(a). You must read Atwater v. Lago Vista and People v. McKay. McKay is specifically about a cyclist arrested for failing to provide ID when stopped for violating a minor ordinance, i.e. an infraction.

        If you cycle without a driver license, a CA ID, or other acceptable form of ID, the police can arrest you.

      • Seth, you say, “McKay is specifically about a cyclist arrested for failing to provide ID when stopped for violating a minor ordinance, i.e. an infraction.”

        McKay was arrested not for failing to provide ID when *stopped* (reasonable suspicion) for investigation of a violations, but when he did not produce satisfactory evidence ID when *charged* (probable cause) with a violation. And he was not arrested for failing to provide ID, but for the underlying offense.

        The Atwater decision merely upholds the legality of arrest, rather than citation and release on the spot, when there is probable cause for an officer to believe that a crime has been committed. It says nothing about what, if anything, is required with respect to ID or anything else in an investigative detention or Terry stop, on the basis of reasonable suspicion of a crime that falls short of probable cause, prior to the point in time at which an officer develops probable cause.

        You continue, “If you cycle without a driver license, a CA ID, or other acceptable form of ID, the police can arrest you.” But you can be arrested (or cited, at the discretion of the officer, as discussed in the McKay decision), only if there is probable cause for the officer to believe that you have committed a crime in his or her presence.

        In California, you cannot be arrested for bicycling without ID, or for failing to produce ID when stopped for investigation.

        Nothing in the McKay decision suggests that you could be arrested merely for bicycling without carrying ID, or for failing to produce ID when stopped for investigation. Only if the officer tells you that he or she is charging you with a crime (which must be based on probable cause) independent of any ID requirement would you need to make a choice of presenting satisfactory evidence of ID and being cited for that other offense, or declining or being unable to do so and risking arrest.

  • PeteR says:

    Being an old person, I carry my CA Senior Citizen ID card on bicycle rides.

  • I always have my ID with me, not a Driver License. Not everyone on a bike had a driver license, but will have an ID. Or am I then not allowed to ride on PCH?

    • fsethd says:

      You can ride wherever you want. There is no licensing requirement for riding itself. But if you are detained or if the police are enforcing the traffic code, then they have a right to demand ID. They have discretion as to what type of ID to accept, but if you refuse to provide them anything then you may be arrested.

  • Harv Woien says:

    Your advice on identification while riding a bike is valid, but falls a bit short. Yes, you can use a drivers license to identify yourself, but then you may (likely) get ‘points’ on your drivers license for the offence.
    Instead get a California ID from the DMV, it is completely legal to have both. BUT, important point; when asked by the DMV clerk if you have a California driver’s license, say NO. The reason for this is if you say YES, the clerk will then put your driver’s license number on your new ID, and the cop will put that number on the citation, and you will still get points. Just bring your birth certificate, passport, or military ID with you to get your new California ID, which is valid for 20 years.
    .
    On a related note; if you have been in the military, you can get the “VETERAN” indication on your driver’s license or ID. This gets you various veteran’s benefits and maybe even some sympathy from a LEO, who knows? But first, you have to go to the Veterans Administration with your DD214 to get a verification form to take to the DMV.
    .
    I have been there, done all that.

  • Kevin says:

    Finally I feel like I got something for my $2.99, (almost) free legal advice!

  • D G Spencer Ludgate says:

    Simple solution – Your passport is an official government I.D.

    • fsethd says:

      Should work on a bike.

    • John Eldon says:

      You beat me to it. Decades ago I was advised to carry my passport instead of a driver’s license when walking or bicycling, and to use that as my ID if stopped.

      • John Eldon says:

        Second thought — probably not such a great idea any more, in this age of computer searches and instant communications. The cop will probably use your name/address/DOB to access your CDL number, anyway, and put that on the ticket, since that’s what the form asks for. More delay, and more chance to piss off the cop for having a bad attitude.

      • fsethd says:

        Not-pissed-off-cops is a good thing.

  • Dan says:

    Hey Seth. Anxious lawyer here: shouldn’t you throw in the standard lawyer caveat that nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice, no contract is made, and etcetera in passive voice?

  • Dean Abt says:

    CHP pulled me over after running a left-turn red while warming up for a race on a remote road (!). Nothing in my pockets but I had my CDL # memorized. Officer went to his car, came back and underlined my less-than superlative driving record (speeding ticket or few). After yelling at me about not wanting to pick up any more body bags he let me go. He made fair points and letting me go was fairly cool. So, if you don’t have ID it’s good to have your CDL# handy in mind.

    • fsethd says:

      I kept mine on my phone until a sheriff’s deputy cyclist friend informed me that I had to show ID if detained. Now I simply carry the CDL.

  • Serge Issakov says:

    Carrying ID is a good idea for bicyclists, but it is not legally required by Section 12951(b).

    Section 12951 is in Division 6 of the CVC.

    Section 21200 is in Division 11 of the CVC. That’s important because the wording in 21200 refers to “this division” (see below).

    Section 12951 has no application to people on bikes. None. Nada. Zilch.

    ————
    21200.
    (a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

    • fsethd says:

      I sort of disagree. The phrase “not limited to” means that the application with respect to other divisions is not exhaustive. When enforcing the provisions of the CVC, a cop may demand, and the driver of a motor vehicle must show, his driver license per 12951(b).

      This is a clear statement of intent that when enforcing the code, users of the public roads can be required to identify themselves to cops. I think it is a very small step, and actually a reasonable one, to say that if you are on a bicycle and are stopped in the process of enforcing the code, you must ID yourself. Moreover, I think that 12591(b) provides a good, if not explicit argument for this.

      Most crucially, police may always demand ID if you are detained, and your refusal to provide it entitles them to arrest you until you can do so. So even if you’re technically right about the application of 12591(b) to bikes, the underlying law regarding ID and detention means that it is probably close enough.

      What’s your defense going to be? “I was detained but wasn’t driving a car”? That won’t fly. “He was enforcing the CVC but I was breaking the law on my bike”? Not convincing, either.

      So like I said, I sort of disagree. If you’re pulled over on your bike and detained they can demand ID and arrest you if you fail to provide it. Of course you are always free to give it a whirl and see who’s right.

      • Serge Issakov says:

        Let’s annotate.
        —-
        A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by [Division 11], including, but not limited to, [Division 11] provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs [provisions of Division 11 that to do not concern driving under the influence are also applicable], and by Division 10 …
        —-
        The “but not limited to” means “but not limited to Division 11 provisions concerning DUI” – but that does not expand the scope outside of Division 11 by one iota. 21200 clearly is meant to say that Division 11 (“The Rules of the Road”) apply to bicyclists the same way as they do to drivers of vehicles. It has nothing to do with the other Divisions of the CVC.

        Besides, 12591 is all about licenses required for driving MOTOR vehicles – licenses which are not required for operating bicycles. 12591 has nothing to do with general identification – it has to do with being required to be able to prove you are legally licensed to drive a motor vehicle. That has no application to bicyclists. Even if Division 6 sections applied to bicyclists (and I’m sure they don’t), the final clause of 21200 would make 12591(b) inapplicable to bicyclists anyway: “… except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.”

        The law cannot require someone to present a license they are not required to have, much less carry.

      • fsethd says:

        Let’s back up.
        Are you required to have something called a “bicycle license” or its equivalent to operate a bicycle on public roads? No.
        Are you required to have some form of ID if you are pulled over for violating a traffic law? Yes.
        If you’re required to ride with some form of ID in the event you’re pulled over, isn’t that a de facto bicycle license? It may not require you to take a test or pay insurance, but if the absence of ID while riding a bike can get you arrested, then I would argue that you are indeed required to ride with something that is in at least one crucial respect the same as a driving license–it proves who you are when the police detain you.
        If you believe that you as a bicyclist are immune from this requirement, it is easy to test. The next time you’re pulled over, tell the officer that you refuse to identify yourself. I predict you will be arrested.
        This was my main point: That even though we aren’t required to have something called a “bicycle license,” the fact that we can be arrested in certain situations for failure to produce ID when riding a bicycle means that we are in fact quite close to having to be licensed. We can argue about the type of ID, and about police discretion to require you to produce it, but in the end if they want to force you to ID yourself, they can. Try it if you really think I’m wrong about this.
        Now there is the second point. What is the legal underpinning for requiring a bicyclist to produce an ID? California no longer has a statute requiring people to ID themselves to police on demand. That law, Penal Code §647(e), has been repealed.
        What follows is from a brief on investigative detentions, published by the DA of Alameda County. You can find it at: http://le.alcoda.org/publications/point_of_view/files/DETENTIONS.pdf
        The landmark case of Terry v. Ohio authorizes police to stop and detain a suspect temporarily if they had a lower level of proof known as “reasonable suspicion.” Once stopped, “an officer conducting a lawful Terry stop must have the right to make this limited inquiry, otherwise the officer’s right to conduct an investigative detention would be a mere fiction.” People v. Loudermilk, (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 996, 1002.
        This is also the opinion of the Supreme Court, which added that identifying detainees also constitutes an appropriate officer-safety measure. “Obtaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder.” Hiibel v. Nevada (2004) 542 U.S. 177, 186.
        Not only do officers have a right to require that the detainee identify himself, they also have a right to confirm his identity by insisting that he present “satisfactory” documentation.104 “[W]here there is such a right to so detain,” explained the Court of Appeal, “there is a companion right to request, and obtain, the detainee’s identification.” People v. Rios (1983) 140 Cal.App.3d 616, 621.
        A current driver’s license or the “functional equivalent” of a license is presumptively “satisfactory” unless there was reason to believe it was forged or altered. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1186. Also see People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 620.
        A document will be deemed the functional equivalent of a driver’s license if it contained all of the following: the detainee’s photo, brief physical description, signature, mailing address, serial numbering, and information establishing that the document is current. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1187. While other documents are not presumptively satisfactory, officers may exercise discretion in determining whether they will suffice. People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 622 [“[W]e do not intend to foreclose the exercise of discretion by the officer in the field in deciding whether to accept or reject other evidence—including oral evidence—of identification.”
        So hopefully you agree that when you get pulled over as a suspect for breaking the law, the police have the right to demand ID and you are obligated to produce it.
        Now let’s move on to the vehicle code. You say that “but not limited to” refers only to DUI. That’s your opinion. I read “but not limited to” to mean that bicyclists’ duties are much broader than the cited divisions, and that’s why it says “not limited to.” Legislative history and drafting notes of the law would possibly clear that up, but your simply stating it does not make it so.
        I do agree that section 12591(b) explicitly applies to cars, and cannot be used as a bootstrap to somehow require bicyclists to have a “bicycling license.” But I also believe that 12591(b), in conjunction with Terry and its progeny, provides additional proof that if you are stopped by a peace officer enforcing the traffic code, you are required to provide ID. And I believe that a good brief on appeal would use that code section to show that the CVC has a strong interest in identifying all public road users when they are cited for a crime, in line with the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry. The fact that you are on a bicycle when the crime is committed will not, and should not, exempt you from this most basic investigative function of the police.
        What’s key, and the point I was making, is that as a bicyclist there are excellent legal reasons to carry a CDL if you have one, and some other form of ID if you do not. There are also excellent practical reasons for carrying ID that have to do with how you interface with law enforcement. They can arrest you if you refuse to identify yourself, and if you are truculent about it, they will.

      • Seth, you say, “Most crucially, police may always demand ID if you are detained, and your refusal to provide it entitles them to arrest you until you can do so.” And yo refer to, “You refer to, “the underlying law regarding ID and detention”.

        I think you are wrong on this. What California statute do you believe would provide the basis for such an arrest?

      • Serge Issakov says:

        Seth, my disagreement with anything you’re saying is related entirely to the interpretation of 21200 and the question of the applicability of 12951(b) to bicyclists.

        Let’s look out how 21200 reads if we leave “by this division” out:

        (a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs…

        If I understand how you’re interpreting the 21200 wording, the inclusion of “by this division” is meaningless. That makes no sense.

        The only reason to include “by this division” is to mean “bicyclists are subject to Division 11 rules”, as opposed to “bicyclists are subject to all of the CVC”. I think it’s a littleconfusing that that they added “including, but not limited to, [DUI provisions]”, but I suspect they did that only because they wanted to bring special emphasis to those particular rules.

        As to the need for a bicyclist (or a pedestrian for that matter) to carry ID, my understanding has always been that if you’re being cited with a legal violation then you must identify yourself, and it’s up to the officer to decide whether to believe you if you don’t have identification, and that you may be detained and taken in for the purpose of identity verification if you can’t prove who you are right there. But, that has nothing to do with 21200, “but not limited to”, or 12951(b).

  • East Coast baby seal says:

    Wasn’t there a Supreme Court decision a few years ago that essentially determined that if you have a pulse, the cops can demand ID? And refusal is cause for arrest. No probable cause required.

  • Al Williams says:

    Cyclists may be required to identify themselves, but they cannot be required to show their drivers’ licenses when stopped by the police, because a driver’s license is not required to operate a bike, so some riders will not have a driver’s license to show.

    A pedestrian is not required to show his driver’s license when stopped by the police. In fact, a pedestrian is only required to identify himself to the police at all if the police believe he may have committed a crime. (This makes it necessary to read the officer’s mind if one plans to refuse to provide identification when waking down the street, or when the police show up at your door.)

    The cyclist’s situation is more analogous to the pedestrian than to the motorist. When the police stop the cyclist, it is generally because he believes that the cyclist has committed a vehicle code infraction, so the cyclist must identify himself, even if the officer’s interpretation of the vehicle code section in question is not even close to being right.

    Or if the cop stops you because a bad guy left the scene on a bike and you are on a bike (personal experience), then he probably has justification to demand your identification. But not your driver’s license.

    • Serge Issakov says:

      Yes, the cyclist situation is analogous to the pedestrian situation. Say a pedestrian is stopped for jaywalking. The police can ask who he is, and, if he cannot prove it (with ID), they may take him in. Same with a bicyclist stopped for running a stop sign. The legal basis for taking someone in due to lack of ID that applies to pedestrians as well as to bicyclists has nothing to do with 21200 or 12951.

  • LesB says:

    Driver’s license, ID card, senior card, passport, CDL #:
    Of course a note from one’s mother will substitute for any of the above.

    • fsethd says:

      Or a note from your blogger.

      • Serge Issakov says:

        You keep talking about 12951(b) and discretion but 12951(b) does not allow for discretion.

        “The driver of a motor vehicle shall present his or her license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of this code.”

        “His or her license”, period.

        Not a photocopy. Not a note from mom. A license.

        This section is specifically and exclusively applicable to drivers of motor vehicles who are required to be licensed and must carry a valid license when operating a motor vehicle. It has no application to bicyclists.

        The legal basis for an officer to demand identification from a bicyclist, if it exists, does not stem from Section 12951 of the CVC.

      • fsethd says:

        See my response to Ed.

  • Gary Cziko says:

    The info from the Alameda County DA Seth provided states:

    “A document will be deemed the functional equivalent of a driver’s license if it contained all of the following: the detainee’s photo, brief physical description, signature, mailing address, serial numbering, and information establishing that the document is current.”

    Unlike a CDL or (I assume) a CA state ID card, a U.S. passport or passport card does not provide the owner’s mailing address, any physical descriptors of the owner, or a signature. So that would suggest that a passport or passport may not be considered acceptable as ID for a cop.

  • […] time went by and I decided to write about it, and I did so here. My legal reasoning was that Section 12951(b) of the vehicle code requires a driver license, and […]

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