Skip navigation
PYHS - Header
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Your Papers, May I See Your Papers?

by Christopher Zoukis

The United States is one of the only nations left in the world that does not have a national ID card. It also is one of the last remaining places where an individual does not have to show an ID to the police, except in certain circumstances. But, there is a de facto ID card in this country—the state-issued driver’s license. And, thanks to the 2005 Real ID Act, the formerly simple driver’s license is slowly becoming a privacy-flouting national ID card of its own kind.

Real ID requires states to implement minimum standards for driver’s licenses. Pursuant to the law, a state-issued driver’s license must have upgraded security features and provide the holder’s name, gender, date of birth, address, photograph, signature, and identification number. All of this information goes into a national identity system database.

Only 27 states are in compliance with Real ID requirements, however. This is because the federal mandate was not funded and because citizens and legislators alike in some states are not willing to contribute to a Big Brother-style national identity database. Indeed, legislatures in six states have passed laws prohibiting their states from complying with Real ID.

Civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) also oppose Real ID and other attempts at creating a national identification card. Jim Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU, said a fear is that a national ID card could become a “unifying system for tracking and control” of Americans that would “encourage more demands for identification” by government officials. He also called the idea that a national ID card would be a good security measure “silly” and nothing more than “security theater.” Stanley said there’s something about a national ID card that feels un-American.

“We don’t want to turn into a regimented society like we see in the movies, or in totalitarian societies,” where police ask citizens to “show us your papers,” Stanley said.

Privacy concerns aside, a national ID card would create red tape by the spools.

“By definitively turning driver’s licenses into a form of national identity documents, Real ID would have a tremendously destructive impact on privacy,” said the ACLU on its website. “It would also impose significant administrative burdens and expenses on state governments, and it could mean higher fees, longer lines, repeat visits to the DMV, and bureaucratic nightmares for individuals.” 


As a digital subscriber to Criminal Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login



The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel Side
CLN Subscribe Now Ad
The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel Side