From the nature of your question, we must presume you are asking about
a driving infraction. However, the answer will also cover other
infractions where your driver's license is your form of
identification. - - or even if not.
Your question also does not provide a locality where this takes place.
So the answer must be provided based on whether the state where the
infraction took place has such a requirement. If they do, you will
find it to be perfectly legal.
Depending on where you are, a police officer may routinely ask for a
SS number and you are required to give it.
No single Federal law regulates the overall use of SS numbers. There
is a lot of leeway in how state and local government agencies, and
even private business may make use of a SSN.
Since the site I am sending you to is a PDF document, it is impossible
to recreate it here.
But some pertinent features include:
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators say that not
allowing law enforcement and driver licensing agencies to request SS
numbers would - "make it difficult for states to detect noncommercial
drivers who were trying to conceal driving infractions under other
"The Social Security Act authroizes states to use SSNs to administer
any tax, general public assistance, [drivers license,] ... and
[enforcing complience] with regulations governing the programs." - -
"...courts and law enforcement agencies may choose to request driver
records by SSN..."
So as you can see, there are valid reasons for asking for your number.
And depending on the laws of the state where the infraction takes
place, law enforcement may legally ask - and expect to be provided -
A single answer cannot cover all states as there is a great deal of
variation between them.
You may want to read the whole document to clarify things.
The above is from http://www.gao.gov/archive/1999/he99028.pdf - A
website of the United States General Accounting Office - Acrobat
Perhaps if you want to let us know in which state this took place, we
can narrow things down a bit.
Search - Google
Terms - social security number disclosure law
If I may clarify anything, please ask.
Clarification of Answer by
21 Sep 2004 05:21 PDT
Even without hearing from Washington State, further research has
determined that this question is a spaghetti tangle between what law
requires and the local interpretations of it. Some police agencies
feel they have the right, some don't.
A actually agree with with the comment made by daniel2d-ga. But too
often such interpretations and realities are in different lanes.
(though I cannot imagine too many people who 'don't' have their own
The problem is that while the law makes such statements as:
"You are not necessarily required to give your SSN to government
agencies asking for it. These agencies must provide you with a Privacy
Act of 1974 Disclosure Notice, which explains which law allows them to
ask, whether you are required to answer and what penalties you face if
you refuse to provide the number.
"Any Federal, State or local government agency which requests an
individual to disclose his social security account number shall inform
that individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by
what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what
uses will be made of it."
About 90% of the way down the page - section 7 (b)"
In spite of such law and perhaps because of ambiguity, there are many
state and local law enforcement agencies that do act and believe they
have the authority to collect such info.
I have found that some jurisdictions have changed their own rules
about police asking for SSNs - For example, this from Eugene, Oregon
requires the police to disclose that the giving of such a number is
not required and a second form of ID is allowed. By even making such
a change it also discloses that officers in that department had been
demanding SSNs in the past, and seemingly with department approval.
There are several kinds of governmental organizations that usually
have authority to request your number, but they are all required to
provide the Privacy Act Statement.
"One weakness of the Privacy Act is that it doesn't carry any penalties." - from
Social Security Number FAQ - History and Signifance
So what it boils down to is that even a formal statement from
Washington State DMV would not be definitive answer. Because, once
again, there are many state and local law enforcement agencies that do
act and believe they have the authority to collect such info. What
may well be the policy of one policing agency in Washington may well
not be the policy of another. The Eugene, Oregon example illustrates
the fact that such decisions are made at extremly local levels and not
on state wide or a national basis.
That is about as detailed as I can make it. To narrow it down any
further would takes the skills of an attorney who is familiar with the
way the law is interpreted in your immediate area. That may be your
next best step.