Chapters of the article
Proof of identity
As mentioned in the introduction, the obligation to carry an ID card has long since disappeared by law. But does this mean that a thief can just tell a police officer that he has no ID and walk away? Obviously, that’s nonsense. In this case, we must distinguish between the obligation to carry ID and the obligation to prove one’s identity. Moreover, if it were a person caught stealing, then the police’s powers would be much wider than simply asking for proof of identity. In that situation, the person could even be seized.
Tip: There may be many occasions when a police officer may approach you, identify you, detain you or ask you to give an explanation. We have discussed the various powers of the police in our article on the website.
A police officer may ask you to prove your identity in cases regulated by the Police Act. Typically, these situations include:
- you are suspected of committing a crime or offence,
- you are required to give an explanation,
- you match the description of a wanted or missing person,
- at the request of another person if that person has a legal interest in establishing your identity,
- you report a suspected crime or offence,
- you are in the vicinity of the scene of a crime or offence, fire or other emergency,
- you are entering a building or premises protected by the police or a place where a police officer is prohibited from entering, or if you are leaving such a building, premises or place,
- a police officer is performing another task and proof of your identity is necessary to protect the safety of persons and property, public order or to prevent crime.
The first five items in the above list also coincide with the powers of a municipal police officer. In addition, the officer may ask a citizen to prove his/her identity if he/she performs an act in relation to him/her in order to carry out the tasks of the municipal police.
If in such cases the citizens refuse to prove their identity, it is the right of the police officer to have them brought to the police station for this purpose. If you do not have your ID card with you, you can prove your identity with a driving licence, passport or otherwise (in certain circumstances, a service or student card, for example, or even a statement from a third party may suffice). In this case, the police are obliged to provide the necessary assistance to enable you to identify yourself. In practice, we know of cases where the police themselves have had a photograph sent from their database for comparison or have been otherwise helpful.
However, police officers must not abuse their powers and legitimise anyone without justification. The reason should also be communicated by the police officer to the legitimate person (or at least at the time he/she asks for it). If the person receives a standardized response that he or she matches the description of a wanted or missing person, it is appropriate to supplement the query with the name of that person. The reason must be really specific.
Tip: Coming into contact with a police officer or officer can happen to anyone. How do the powers of police officers and constables differ and how do you tell them apart? That’s what we look at in our separate article.
Are you dealing with a legal problem related to identity or personal data?
Not sure if you were within your rights under the law? Contact us and one of our attorneys will prepare a legal opinion for you within 48 hours.
What about the revisors and conductors?
An encounter with an inspector is not usually considered the happiest moment of the day, and if he asks you to do something you feel he has no right to do, conflict can quickly arise. So what about the authority of the inspector (or conductor) to know your identity?
Under the Road Transport Act, a passenger is required to produce a valid travel document when asked by an authorised person. If he or she fails to produce a valid travel document, he or she must pay the fare and the surcharge, or produce the personal data necessary to enforce payment of the surcharge; the personal data are the first name, surname, birth number or date of birth and the address of the place of permanent residence, as stated in the passenger’s identity document issued by the competent administrative authority.
The Railway Act provides for a similar procedure for conductors.
It is therefore in order that in the above mentioned cases the inspector or conductor requires passengers to show their identity card in order to be able to write down the required information. If the passenger refuses to give it to him/her, the reviser is then entitled to call the police, who have the power to ask citizens to prove their identity, in which case the citizen is also obliged to produce the identity card (or other document). Thus, if the citizen refuses to identify himself to the inspector in this respect, he may do so, but the situation is only prolonged and his identity is established some time later.
According to the current legislation, other bodies, such as various “guards” (forestry, fishing, hunting), customs officers, etc., may also demand identification under certain circumstances.
Taking your ID to the post office
As far as the Czech Post is concerned, the moment the parcel is received, the postal conditions become part of the contract, which, for certain types of parcels, make their release conditional on proof of identity. Again, this can be done not necessarily only with an ID card, but also with a passport or travel document.
There are other similar situations where certain institutions have made the formation of a contract conditional on proof of identity. In addition to the post office clerk, you are sometimes asked to show ID at the library, for example. In these situations, if you want to use the services of a library, post office, etc., and part of their terms and conditions includes proof of identity, then you must respect them. It is everyone’s choice whether to find an alternative to these services that does not require proof of identity.
Citizen as pledge
Whilst in the above cases we find it easiest not to delay in providing proof of identity and to respect the instruction of the person concerned, we recommend the opposite approach if you are asked to leave your ID “as collateral” This may be the case, for example, when a hotel or gym asks you to pay a deposit in exchange for a key and access to the premises. If you do not have the appropriate banknote, the receptionist will ask you to leave your ID for the time being. However, not only does she have no right to do so, but she is committing an offence under the ID Act at the time. Besides, this situation is easily exploitable and you never know what a dishonest receptionist might use the ID card for. We therefore strongly caution against leaving an ID card “in pawn”.
Identity on your mobile phone
As early as the end of next year, a government project with the working title of eDocument could begin, which will allow citizens to prove their identity electronically, using a mobile phone app. In addition to an ID card, a driving licence, proof of education or a firearms licence could also be in one place. However, the existing cards will not be replaced and will remain valid. According to the drafters, digital identity will allow for greater discretion, for example, when proving the age of majority, it would be possible to show only the age and not the full date of birth or address.