When do you have to identify yourself to police?

Attorney weighs in on Childersburg arrest video
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 11:18 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The release of body camera video that showed a local pastor arrested while watering his neighbors’ flowers got a lot of attention.

That video of the confrontation between the Childersburg Police Department and Pastor Michael Jennings had gained national attention prompting questions about when you have to identify yourself to law enforcement, and when you don’t.

The arrest happened in May 2022.

Jennings’ attorneys sent WBRC the video. The attorneys said Jennings did nothing wrong but still ended up in jail facing charges. Those charges were later dropped.

Childersburg Police officers in the video state they got a call about a suspicious person and when they arrived, they asked Jennings his name, he complied, but then the officer asked for his identification, and that’s when Jennings told them he didn’t have to provide ID because he wasn’t committing a crime.

Birmingham attorney Roger Appell is not connected to the case, but offered insight into state law.

“Under Alabama law 15 –5–30 if the police have reasonable suspicion someone is committing, has committed, or about to commit a felony or other public offense, they may demand of him his name, address, and explanation of actions, but that does not give them the right to require identification. There was no reasonable suspicion that this gentleman had done anything wrong. Therefore, they had no right to ask him for anything,” Appell said.

Appell added that police overstepped their authority in this case.

Some people argue they would have given the police their I.D. so, they would not have to deal with the situation. Appell said that is an option but for someone who wants to stand on their constitutional rights, you have the right to do that as well.

Jennings is proceeding with a discrimination lawsuit against the department.

Our attempts to get comments from the department have gone unanswered.


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