You may have wondered in what circumstances a police officer may rightfully demand to see your ID or Concealed Carry Permit (CCP). Can a police officer stop you and ask for your driver’s license as you are walking down the street minding your own business? Are you required to inform a police officer that you are carrying a concealed handgun with your permit? Well, it turns out that there are some situations where you are legally obligated to prove who you are, what you may be doing in certain locations, and that you are carrying a handgun.
There are typically three different scenarios you may find yourself in after being stopped by a police officer – a mere encounter, formal detention, and being under arrest. Your rights to privacy and freedom will vary depending on the type of encounter. In the first scenario, a “mere encounter,” a police officer may stop you on the sidewalk and start asking you questions about what you are doing, what is your name, if you are on the way to some other location, etc. In this situation, you are not under arrest, nor are you legally considered to be held against your will. You may choose to answer the officer’s questions or not, provide identification or not, and are free to leave at any time.
The next scenario is being formally detained by an officer. In this situation, you are not free to leave whenever you wish, and an officer is generally holding you in order to determine whether you have committed a crime. In Kansas City, Missouri law gives police officers broad powers to stop individuals and get information from them. Section 84.710 of the Missouri statutes states that an officer may demand of a person their “name, address, business abroad and whither he is going.” An officer may also search a suspect for a dangerous weapon if they have reasonable ground to believe they are in danger. Outside of Kansas City, reasonable suspicion that you are engaged in or will be engaged in criminal activity is required for formal detentions.
If you are detained, an officer will already have developed reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime. If the officer asks for your identification while you are being detained, you may refuse to present it to him or her under U.S. v. Jones, 759 F.2d 633 (8th Cir. 1985), but the officer may search you for your ID regardless. Further, if you refuse to answer the officer’s questions about your name, activities, and destination, the officer could use that against you when determining whether or not to take you into the station.
How do you know if you are being formally detained by an officer or if you are in a “mere encounter” where you are free to leave? It’s simple – ask the officer whether you are free to go, or if you are being detained. If the officer doesn’t answer at first, ask again. If the officer says you are free to leave, you are not being detained. If the officer says you are not free to leave, you are being detained. If you are detained, avoid debating the intricacies of your constitutional rights with the officer. Chances are that your rhetorical skills will fall on deaf ears. The goal here is to get through the process as smoothly and quickly as possible.
The last, and most serious of the scenarios is when you may find yourself under arrest. In order for an officer to arrest you, he or she must have probable cause that you committed a crime. After being arrested, you will be given your Miranda warning (notification of the right to remain silent, etc.) and will likely have your belongings searched. At this point, you are legally required to provide your information and identification to an officer who asks for it, and they will almost certainly ask for it.
How does this apply specifically to carrying your handgun with a CCP in Missouri? If you are pulled over for a traffic stop, detained, or arrested by an officer in the State of Missouri, while you are not legally required to inform the officer that you are carrying a concealed handgun with your permit, it may be a good idea to tell him or her that you have a handgun in your possession. Do not reach toward your handgun while you inform the officer and keep your hands where the officer can see them. This will not only make things easier on the officer, but likely will also make things easier on you!
As you can see, being stopped by a police officer may lead to many different outcomes. The best thing to do if you are unclear about what kind of scenario you find yourself in is first to notify the officer that you are carrying a concealed or open handgun pursuant to your Missouri or other state’s handgun license, and then to ask the officer “Am I free to go” or “Am I being detained?” The officer’s answer will determine whether you are free to walk away or whether you are being legally detained.
If you have any questions, please call our office and one of our Independent Program Attorneys will be glad to help and clear up any confusion.