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North Carolina: Stop and ID?

I’ve received several calls regarding whether or not North Carolina has a “Stop and ID” law. Specifically, people are wondering how this relates to openly carrying a firearm in public. This is certainly a hot topic issue given the recent wave of violent acts around the country and 24/7 media coverage. However, I will try to briefly describe only what North Carolina requires.

Despite how you may feel about the use and/or carrying of firearms, the United States Constitution protects and individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Given the recent violence around the country thousands of people are signing up to purchase handguns for self-defense. Depending upon your County of residence it could take several months to process a Conceal and Carry Weapon permit for you to legally carry a concealed weapon. In the meantime, citizens may openly carry their firearms when done lawfully.

Carrying a firearm openly is legal in this State. Frankly, there are fewer restrictions on open-carry as opposed to much stricter provisions involved in possessing a concealed handgun. One of those provisions is the so-called “Stop and ID” by an officer.

Let’s face it, when you’re carrying a firearm openly, people are going to notice. It will not be uncommon for those concerned to call the police. However, you are simply exercising your right to keep and bear arms.

If and when you are approached by the police, they will certainly have some questions to ask. How you proceed from here is up to you. There are basically two avenues: 1) be compliant and show them your ID, or 2) legally refuse cooperation.

Legally, you are under NO DUTY to provide an officer your identification should you be simply walking down the street. A police officer needs reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot before they can detain you for questioning. Carrying a firearm legally and openly is NOT any form of reasonable suspicion to detain and question you. You may simply (and politely helps) refuse to provide identification unless you are being detained for suspicion of committing a crime. Unless the police have some level of suspicion that you are engaged, or about to be engaged, in criminal activity they have no authority to detain you. You may simply ask if you are being detained and then request to leave. If you are being detained you need not answer any questions and request to speak with a lawyer (feel free to give me a call).

Needless to say, if you are being illegally detained at this point how an officer reacts will usually depend upon your demeanor, his experience, and other common sense factors. If you are steadfast in your refusal to cooperate, you may face an arrest. This will not be a legal arrest mind you, however, police are human beings and make mistakes. Your experience can greatly be influenced by your level of cooperation; the debate of standing up for your rights versus giving in to police demands and taking the “easy way” out are totally up to you.

A savvy officer that really wants your ID can simply watch you while you walk down the street with your openly carried firearm and wait for you to enter a vehicle. A vehicle has a lesser expectation of privacy for the purposes of being searched and an officer may simply wait for you to commit even the most minor of traffic violations to pull you over. At this point, N.C.G.S. 20-29 requires that you surrender your license to law enforcement.

In summary, North Carolina has NO “Stop and ID” and an officer may NOT stop and detain you without reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime. Openly carrying a firearm is NOT reasonable suspicion in itself.

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