Ask LH: Can The Police Ask For My Licence When I’m In My Driveway?

Dear Lifehacker, I had pulled into my private driveway at home and turned off the car. A police car pulled up 10 seconds later and asked me for licence and rego details, Is that allowed if I’m at home in my driveway? I was fined heavily. What are the rules here? Thanks, Driveway Defendant

Picture by Mirco Lazzari/Getty Images

Dear Driveway Defendant,

I’m not a lawyer, and the exact rules regarding producing your licence are going to vary in every state. But I have to say, it seems entirely justifiable for police to ask to see your licence after they’ve seen you driving a car, and refusing to show it simply because you’re on “private property” makes you look needlessly suspicious. (You don’t say whether you were “fined heavily” for observed behaviour prior to stopping or because you didn’t share your details, but the point stands either way.)

Let’s look at this in simple terms. If the police pulled up 10 seconds after you stopped, they clearly had seen you on the road. So regardless of the final location of your car, you have recently been driving on public roads. One of the roles the police serve is enforcing road rules, and as part of that function they can ask you to prove that you’re licensed to drive a car. Much easier, I’d have thought, to produce your licence than to refuse purely on territorial grounds.

We covered a similar issue recently when a reader asked if they could be booked for bad driving in a shopping centre. Despite some people arguing that shopping centres are “private property”, the answer to that one turns out to be unequivocally yes: you can get booked if you drive dangerously or break road rules. And so it should: a centre might be private property, but your behaviour could impact others.

It’s much the same here: your car might have finished up on a your own driveway, but it was clearly on public roads beforehand. Given the choice between demonstrating that, yes, I’m entitled to drive a vehicle that I’ve just been seen driving or arguing that the police have no right to ask, I’d go for the former.


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