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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    That must be one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard?

      Questions aren't dumb, people are!

        Adding a question mark to the end of a statement is pretty dumb (but I agree, dumb question.)

          That is how Australians talk, as if we all are too insecure to make a statement?

            That's a damn lie?

            You take that statement back?

            ...please?

            I agree?

            I refer the prosectution to Adam Hill on Youtube and the Australian language your honour?

              And our complete lack of grammar spelling ability and compulsion to start sentences with and?

          The ? was a way of saying (why would you ask that question), ********

      Its not a stupid fckn question, reason being is im goin to court now nd went today nd wonderin the same thing tht unks askin but mt situations alil differnt. I rap @ a friends studio & i was over another friends house a few mins after i keft i was walkin down the street in my neighborhood & by chance my peoples who's studio i go over to alot was drivin threw my neighborhood & he stoped seein wht i was gettin into, told i just lft my peoples house nd asked him if he felt like hittin his studio to lay down a track i been workin on long story short said ya so i got in his truck and told him to stop at my house to get my note book nd when pulled up to my house.tlked for 3mins nd before i was bout to get out truck police pulled behind us mind yalll truck was off parked for 3mins minimum outfront my house nd cop deemanded his nd my license nd demanded to search truck nd said reason was thre was rash of car thefts in my. neighborhood nd he refused him to.search truck but gave license then cop well not cop operation safe street/probation officer (not me or him mind u on probation) pulled out gun neither me/him had warrwnts pulled gun stuck to his head told him to get the fuck out the truck told operation safe street mwn no numerous times the rehulstered gun then pulled out taser gun to slamed it ion his tempal nd told him quote on quote.u have 2seconds for i fcking tase u so he finally gotf out tthen bck up came told cop i lived there but lockex us up anyway. Isnt that illegal beings we were parked outfront my house telling him numerous times it was mt house for easly 3mins parrked truck of before he pulled behind us flashin lightss. Am i wrong or isntt tht moss deff illeegal. I live in newark delaware. Email me all thouught anyone may no at. [email protected] id very much appreciate everyones thoughts an opions asap got trial in 21days need info fast!!!!

    They cant ask you for your licence but its easier to just give it to them, what they can do however is send you a summons to court and the judge decides if you were for example driving recklessly.

    Victoria, Australia

      Why do you say the police can't ask you for your license or Identification? Police are there to protect and serve the community, at times I don't get some of the legal technicalities in our Country if what you are saying is true... if someone breaks the law or a police needs to do a routine check for what ever reason identifying your self should not be a big ask!

      What sad times, I would hate to but a copper serving under some of the stupid laws and required paperwork needed for the most simple of tasks.

      They are allowed to ask you for your license if they've just witnessed you using your vehicle in a public manner. A police officer can request your license at any given time of any given day. You have to provide it if requested. However the difference becomes 'can I be charged for driving my vehicle'. You cannot be charged if your vehicle is in your front yard, in the driveway inside your yard, in your back yard. However if your vehicle is in the driveway joining the footpath, even just half a foot over, you are considered to be on public property where a license is necessary and yes, you can be charged.

    +1

    Even if you weren't driving, they can ask for your ID if you are under any suspicion of doing something shady, and by not producing shows you got something to hide, will only make matters worse. Cops LOVE enforcing their power, the more you resist, the more rights they have to fck you up.

    Just suck it up and pay the fine. You didn't post the reason for the fine with your question, so I'm going to assume you know you'd done something wrong, and are just trying to exploit loopholes to get out of it.

    Man up. Own up. Pay up. Grow up.

    Last edited 19/10/12 11:05 am

      +1. It's probably because I don't drive myself, but it astounds me how many people seem to think that driving is their divine right, and that traffic law enforcement is some sort of Orwellian infringement on their God-given liberty to do whatever the hell they want behind the wheel without qualm or consequence. I know this was Evil Week and all, but seriously. Grow up indeed.

        PLUS ALL THE NUMBERS!

        The "I can do what I want, and if I get away with it I was in the right" mentality seems to be increasing in a daily basis. Whatever happened to "I was wrong, I'll wear it"?

          The only crime is getting caught.

            NO. What an incredibly selfish thing to say. The crime is breaking the road rules, and putting other people's lives in danger. I don't think you should EVER drive.

        +1
        Specifically for speeding. While i understand to a certain extent the mindset that this limit is annoying, i could go a bit faster and be fine, the vocal Australian idea (probably elsewhere as well I'm sure) that if you're not going over the speed limit you're a bastard slowing everyone else down and deserve every kind of abuse hurled at you and should be aggresively tailgated is sickening.

          I started driving in my 30s due to epilepsy. Prior to that I was catching the bus. I stick to the speed limit religiously now. Why? Because I always remind myself that I could always be back on the bus where a 10 minute trip by car takes 60 minutes (literally) by bus.

    In Victoria as per the Road Safety Act a highway means road or road related area. So even if people consider a shopping centre to be private property, under the Road Safety Act it is still a highway, thus you can get a ticket.

    The rules are quite simple. They can proceed as far as the first locked door or gate. Therefore, if you had an automatic gate and closed it behind you, they could only go as far as the gate. With no gate, they can approach you as far as your front door. Forcing entry of a locked door or gate would require a warrant unless there is very special circumstances. In any event, it would be in your best interest to comply, even if you were drinking or speeding. Refusing a police request will only make them go for the maximum fine rather than the minimum which it looks like they did in your case. A good article to read is here: http://news.domain.com.au/domain/real-estate-news/how-private-is-your-property-20100602-wvym.html

      What a crazy system we have in our country, this place is going to poo...

      Lets say for example this guy was speeding and drifting around corners..etc..etc.. the cops noticed him and gave chase, what you are saying is as long as I can get into my driveway and close the gate quick enough they can't touch me? Hopefully This situation above will count as a "Special circumstance" but after hearing media reports of stupid legalities in the media over the years I'm not too sure it will...

      How sad is it when the police can't do there job due to a bunch of lawyers sitting in an office with no real life experience.. I really do fell so sorry for our coppers at times, they really do get a raw deal.

        Don't blame the lawyers, otherwise I agree.

        I disagree completely. Just as data storage requirements inevitably expand to fill available capacity, so too will police actions expand to take advantage of granted powers. Unpunished over- and mis-use of Tasers resulting in civilian deaths is a perfect local example, as are the many and varied off-label applications of the Patriot Act in the US ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Act#Controversy ), to name two of many.

        The liberty of private citizens must always be protected from the potential (and when unchecked, pretty much inevitable) tyranny of the state, and hard limits on police powers are an essential part of that balance, as are privacy and property rights.

        The flipside here is that if the cops actually witnessed the driver do something wrong, they have his vehicle licence plate, his address, and set guidelines on how to proceed. If he'd committed a fineable offence, then they could just as easily mail the fine to the registered owner of the vehicle, and if they witnessed or reasonably suspected that he'd committed an arrestable offence, exhibited dangerous conduct or otherwise breached the peace then then they'd have every right to pursue him onto private property, gated or otherwise.

        Not a lawyer, so any corrections or clarifications are welcome.

    If you fall asleep in your car whilst inebriated, even if the keys are in your pocket and not the ignition and even if you are in the back seat, they can book you for being drunk and in charge of a vehicle. It sucks, but that's the rule. There are a lot of them that could be open to interpretation.

    Last edited 19/10/12 11:36 am

      Not in all states. Most states you have to have the keys IN the ignition to be in charge on the vehicle, even if you are in the back seat. If the keys are NOT in the ignition in most states you can't be booked if you're not in the drivers seat.

        I'll have to take your word for it, I've only been done for it in Qld.... So far.. ;)

        What Gus has stated is what I have heard is true. I have heard of drunk people sleeping in the back seat while their key is in the ignition and been booked for that, but I've never heard of a drunk person being booked for sleeping in the back of a car with their keys in their pocket.
        As Gus says, I'm sure it varies in all states.

        Last edited 19/10/12 11:56 am

          I think you'll find it varies from cop to cop! Depends on how pissed off you are and how inebriated you are after one wakes you up! Qld cops in particular and the time it happened, as in the Bjelke Peterson era...

          Last edited 19/10/12 12:59 pm

            Might depend on where the car is. If it's in the middle of nowhere by a highway, I think the police could reasonably assume that you drove it there drunk before deciding to take a nap. If it's parked next to a pub, different story.

        Gus, my understanding is in nearly every state, if not all, you are in control in said situation. Really the only way you are not in control is if you put your keys in the boot and sleep in the back.

        Gus, what if you are caught having a fap in the backseat but the keys are IN the ignition?
        Further to this, if you're having a fap in the backseat and keys are firmly wedged in your a**hole to increase sensation, is this also breaking the law?? Is it OK if it's at night?
        SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!

    It's a bit of a silly question, because what if a person did a hit'n'run and pulls into their driveway? They're gonna claim that just because they're in their driveway they're immune to police questioning?

      It seems to work fine in GTA...

    If they catch you in the vehicle as the driver they can do anything they want to book you. But if you get out of the car into your house or there is a dispute as to who the driver of the vehicle is, then you might be able to find a loophole(But they would still send the fine to the registered owner anyway) . But if they catch you in the drivers seat you are screwed.

    I’m not a lawyer either. Maybe (and this is just a suggestion) you could get a comment from the police on these topics (should be free), or a lawyer (maybe LegalAid could share some insight in exchange for promoting their services). Just sayin'.

      Police from NSW will tell you the following:
      Police have the power, on roads or road related areas to stop drivers and require the to produce a drivers licence. Having said that the private property party of your driveway is not a road or road related area. However, if police attempted to stop you whilst you were on a road and you pull into your driveway then the power still stands. Police also have the power to demand the drivers details from the owner of a vehicle at the time it was used in the commission of an offence. Police can require proof of identity of any person they're taking formal action against, such as issuing an infringement notice.

      So, at the end of the day, either he's a driver being stopped on a road, or he's the owner of the vehicle and either way he's required to provide identification.

      Generally, whilst the law is complex it generally boils down to common sense and there are too many loop hopes. If it sounds logical, then there's a 99.8% chance it's legal for police to do it.

    So yeah, would have been great if the reason for them asking and then fining you was posted other than 'fined after observed behaviour' which is a bit vague. You could have been driving like a jackass, or the cops could have been having a bad day and just decided to pick on someone.

    Either way you don't mess with the cops: They ask you for your license, you give it to them
    and cooperate. It just looks way too suspicious first of all, even if you haven't done anything wrong and stuck to the rules. Afterwards you can always dispute the fine if you think they were
    full of shit and they were just after revenue.

    I do think it is a bit funny that they waited all that time and then approached you when
    you were in your driveway. I'd find that slightly confusing and offensive too.
    However they're cops. Your not. Just hear what they have to say, and dispute fine in court.

      you dont mess with cops!? Police are highly untrust worthy. The police commisioner here in WA has said in 2008 tazers DO NOT kill. this is a lie. A UN report done in 2007 found 8 young healthy americans died as a direct result of tazering.

      2. even in queensland 2 motorbike police have been recorded doing 140kph with no lights no sighren. changed the guy following them. footage was sent to today tonight. after being asked by TT for a statement the following was given "police are too busy to respond to public criticism".

      police are a law unto themselves with no checks or balances. individuals who work in any capacity for the police either has low to no morals or low cognitive ability. as many a police have said to me before "we just enforce the rules" proving they dont wont or cant think for themselves.

        Er... yeah.

        Even if your arguments were coherent and credible, the conclusion you draw is ridiculous: "cops are dangerous so you should mess with them." Um, wot?

        I don't particularly want to get tazered, so I'm going to choose "don't mess with cops"

          How very wise

        I'm curious: if the poilice are "a law unto themselves with no checks or balances" AND "wont or cant think for themselves", then who is doing the unto-ing? Because their "low cognitive ability" would surely preclude them doing it directly.

        Is it this guy: http://goo.gl/1iMTG ?

        2. even in queensland 2 motorbike police have been recorded doing 140kph with no lights no sighren. changed the guy following them. footage was sent to today tonight. after being asked by TT for a statement the following was given "police are too busy to respond to public criticism".

        not sure about queensland, but i know in victoria that police (or fire, or ambulance) have the right to respond to an incident without displaying lights or sirens due to the nature of their job, so long as if they have an accident they can justify their actions in front of a court/tribunal.

        There are checks and Balances,,,they just choose to not be subject to them.

        Sedition: Any Act causing Government, Law, Constitution, Sovereign to be held in hatred and or contempt is a Seditious Act. Such a definition would include as Seditious Acts any Act of Government, Law, Constitution, Sovereign, not having the continuous Consent of the Whole Populace,
        So everything from what constitutes an acceptable Act of Law, Constitution, Government, or Sovereign, to violation of my right, and everyone else's obligation to represent themselves, directly in parliament would be covered.

        Would you be accountable to that? No? Then why should they be? A country full of lawless imbeciles will inevitably be governed by tyrants and terrorists.

        Tasers don't kill, pre-existing medical conditions triggered by electrical currents kill people.

        Yes the police aren't immune to fault, but anyone who takes their information from a show like Today Tonight or A Current Affair is a complete cretan and needs get their sources from a legitimate media form.

    You are right. In QLD you can be busted for simply having the keys in the car and you being in the car, no matter where you are in the car or what you are doing. When my cousin used to drive to town with her mates, they would park right near the beach(Cairns so the beach is in town) and bury her keys on the beach near a light then lock themselves in the car. No keys meant they wouldnt get fined and when they woke up, they would just go dig them up.

    if you'd managed to make it inside your house, then when they knocked on the door you can refuse to come out, force them to get a warrant. but if you're still in the driveway, you're screwed.

    Pretty sure they can't breathalyze you in your own driveway though.

      If they saw you driving, asked for your license, then they could breathalyse you to ensure you were not driving whilst intoxicated. Makes sense to me.

      No but they can take you in for committing offensive behaviour which can be painted with a very broad brush.

    You have a few considerations right off the bat:
    Is your issue with being asked by police for identification, or being asked for registration and licensing details?
    What state?
    What is your age?
    Were you on private property at the time?
    Do you have any previous or pending convictions?
    Is your 'driveway' on private property, or were you still on a road-related area (NSW example)?, such as a footpath, shopping centre car park etc http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/fragview/inforce/subordleg+179+2008+pt.2-div.1-rule.13+0+N?tocnav=y

    I've heard of them nailing people for drunk driving based on witness accounts. The police then went to cars address and found and inebriated lady at the house, they arrested her. She was alone there, her engine bonnet was warm and she didn't have a reason for that... bam, drunk driving convicition.

    Each case will turn on the facts.
    Few have been provided.

    Below is an example of a man in NSW who was involved in serious driving offences, who was arrested inside his home after parking in the driveway. In other situations, you are not even required to prove your identity to police (although you are never permitte to give a false identity).
    Without more information is is hard for anyone to give you a legal perspective on where you would fit along this spectrum, and as always, the best person to do this would be a lawyer. Not a technology website editor :)

    http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/news/media_release_archive?sq_content_src=%2BdXJsPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGd3d3LmViaXoucG9saWNlLm5zdy5nb3YuYXUlMkZtZWRpYSUyRjI2MDEyLmh0bWwmYWxsPTE%3D

    I have an ex-cop for a boss. Here in NSW police are not permitted to breathalyse you if you are in your vehicle in your driveway. They will probably get you for something else if you refuse, but you don't have to submit to said test.

      Unless they were signalling you to pull over at the time, they cant follow you onto your property without a warrant (or suspicion of a crime). Your best bet is to request their proof of identification. If they fail to do so or refuse in any way they have committed a crime.

    If there is direct access to public roads, police can book you using the public road rules.

    So if you have a suspended licence or no rego you can be booked for driving your car on your driveway or front yard.

    Don't like it? Fence it in and get a gate.

    I ride a motorbike. I was at a party one night when it got a bit rowdy and the cops came to break it up. I was a little bit drunk, but not too bad. I asked them if they minded if I move my bike off the road and up behind a tree on the lawn, so as it not to be accidently knocked over or stolen. They said "no problem" so I hoppen on, started it, and slowly rode it up to where I said. Technically they could have got me for no helmet, no license on me and drink driving!
    But because I simply said 'hey, mind if I do this because of ..." they were absolutely fine. Aside from saying "Its your own fault if you drop it"

    But on topic, yes, they can breathalyze you in your driveway, if they had seen you on the road. Cops don't just pull into random peoples driveways and give them a hard time.

    In SA you don't need to be in the car, if you have the keys in your hand, drunk and near the car, you can be fined/arrested with the intention of driving under the influence...

    Police need suspicion of a infringement that is enough to question you about anything and to request your licence. private property is not immunity from the law. and as far as i know from the front of your yard to your door is called "lawfully trespassing" as ppl can still knock on your door and not be charged for trespass.

    It would appear in Victoria it is an offence to not give the police your ID

    Taken from: http://www.lawstuff.org.au/vic_law/topics/criminal-law/police-interviews

    What if the police ask for identification?
    You must give your correct name and address if asked by the police. The police will ask for these details if they believe that:

    you have committed or are about to commit an offence, whether it be a serious (indictable) or less serious (summary) one, or
    you are able to help them with information about an indictable offence which has been committed or which they suspect has been committed.
    The police must tell you why they want your name and address. If they do not give you a reason, you should ask for it.

    It is an offence to refuse to give your name and address, or to give false details to police or public transport officers.

    A police officer must also tell you their name, police station, and rank, either orally or in writing, if you ask. It is an offence for a police officer to refuse to give you this information, to give you a false name, rank, or name of police station, or to refuse to give you this information in writing if you so ask for it.

    Not sure where some people get their info from but it's mostly rubbish! There is no way you can get done for 'intention of driving under the influence' merely by having your keys in your hand near your car. What a load of codswallop!! You could just be going to lock the car, getting something out of the glovebox or going to sleep in the car (and no you can't get done for drink driving by sleeping in your car in the back seat in SA).

    There is no law on asking for a license in a drive way if you were speeding as such there is no law

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