Police Abuse

Alabama Woman Arrested for Refusing To Give a Cop Her I.D.

Alabama law doesn't let police demand individuals' government identification. But they keep arresting people anyway.


In February, police officer John Barton arrested Twyla Stallworth in Andalusia, Alabama, because she refused to give him her photo identification. The only problem? Barton had no legal basis to demand Stallworth fork over her I.D. 

Stallworth's arrest is just the latest in a series of false arrests in Alabama that have stemmed from a misinterpretation of the state's 2006 "stop and identify law," which allows police, when they have reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place, to demand individuals provide their name, address, and an explanation of their actions—but not their photo I.D.

It's not entirely clear how Barton ended up at Stallworth's home on February 23. A lawsuit filed by Stallworth earlier this month does not provide background on the incident, and video filmed by Stallworth's 18-year-old son Jermari starts after Barton had come to Stallworth's door. According to USA Today, Stallworth's lawyers say that the confrontation started when she called to complain about a neighbor's loud music.

However, even if Barton had some reason to believe Stallworth might have been committing a crime—something that is possible but seems unlikely given Stallworth was in her own home—he still wouldn't have been able to demand her I.D.

"Give me an I.D. or go to jail," Barton told Stallworth, who incredulously responded, "I'm going to jail for not providing my I.D."

In the video of the incident, Barton is seen pushing Jermari away and attempting to handcuff Stallworth.

"Don't push my son! What's wrong with you? You will not push my son!" Stallworth yelled.

A struggle ensued, during which Barton "physically assaulted Ms. Stallworth by shoving her down on a couch," according to the lawsuit.

After Stallworth had been arrested, video shows Jermari asking Barton to see the statute he claims Stallworth violated: "I actually want to see this law in play," he says. 

The statute, which Barton pulled up on his phone, allows police to "stop any person abroad in a public place whom he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed or is about to commit a felony or other public offense and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his actions."

"I don't see where it says anything about an I.D.," Jermari says. "It says your name, address, and an explanation."

"She failed to identify," Barton replied.

"I mean it doesn't specifically, you know, say an I.D.," Jermari added before Barton cut in: "I know, but I'm not going to argue with you either."

Despite Stallworth's son pointing out the obvious—that Stallworth hadn't broken the Alabama identification law—she was still charged with "obstruction, resisting arrest, and eluding," according to the lawsuit. The charges have since been dropped.

On March 8, Mayor of Andalusia Earl Johnson issued a formal apology to Stallworth, saying, "I would like to apologize to Twyla Stallworth for her arrest in February. All charges against Ms. Stallworth are being dropped." Johnson noted that Barton "has been disciplined for failing in his duty to know the law."

This is far from the first time that Alabama cops have misinterpreted the state's "stop and identify" law, wrongfully arresting individuals for not forking over their photo identifications. A man who was watering his neighbor's plants was arrested after refusing to give an officer his I.D. in May 2022. Last October, a federal court refused to grant qualified immunity to police officers who arrested a mechanic who refused to provide a government I.D. in 2019.

"The police are free to ask questions, and the public is free to ignore them," wrote 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles R. Wilson in that last case. "Any legal obligation to speak to the police and answer their questions arises as a matter of state law."