Community Policing Corner

Frequently Asked Questions by the Transgender Community to Police

1.        Can I go to jail for being “dressed” in public?

  • In the State of California it is not illegal to be dressed as any gender regardless of your
    birth gender.

2.        What happens if I am stopped by a law enforcement officer while I am dressed?

  • You should be honest about your true legal name, address, date of birth, and driver’s
license status.

  • You should give your legal name and identification information to the officer.

  • If you are in transition from one gender to the other and your legal name has been
changed, give your legal name.  If you have not completed this process, provide your
legal name and information.

  • If you are asked for your birth name, you are not required to give it, but know that there
may be an issue with the officer, who may feel that you are hiding something for criminal
reasons.  This could cause prolonged detention, while the officer investigates.

3.        What happens if my gender appearance on my driver’s license is different from my
gender appearance when the officer meets me? IE: Your driver’s license has a “Female”
gender marker, but your gender presentation is “Male”.

  • You should tell the officer that you are transgendered.  A further explanation may
    help          the officer to understand that you are a “cross-dresser” or are transsexual,
    and in           gender transition, or have changed genders, but your ID does not reflect
    that at this time.

4.        What happens if I give a police officer a name other than the one on my               

  • Police officers are curious by nature and suspicious when anyone lies to them.

  • If you lie, or it appears to the officer that you have lied, understand that you now, may
have given the officer grounds to arrest you, especially if you are driving a car.  It is a law
that providing a peace officer with a false name and identification information is a
criminal offense.  It may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the
circumstances.  You could go to jail as a consequence.

  • You will have also made a permanent marker on your new ID or license listing the    
other names that you have used, to include your birth name.  This does not appear if there is
no criminal history associated with your ID or driver’s license.

5.        Can I have two different driver’s licenses; one in each gender?

  • In the state of California it is unlawful to have two valid identifications for the same
person if they are under different names.  

  • If you have obtained a new license or ID in your target gender, you are required to turn
    in your old ID or license with your birth name etc…

  • You will have also made a permanent marker on your new ID or license listing the other
names that you have used, to include your birth name.  This does not appear if there is
no criminal history associated with your ID or driver’s license.

6.       What happens if I possess more than one form of identification in different names
and or genders?

  • It is a crime and you can be arrested if you possess governmental identifications that
are fraudulent.

  • You may or may not be arrested and booked into jail.

  • You have just added additional AKA’s to your California DMV history and anytime a
perspective employer or a peace officer run your name, your birth name is not available
and additional questions will be asked and could cause you embarrassment and legal
difficulties for years.

7.        What would happen if I am arrested while I am dressed?

  • The arrest procedure in most counties is VERY straight forward and generally unfair to
transgender individuals.

  • If you are arrested; regardless of dress and gender appearance,  You will be booked
    into the jail under your legal name, if it is  known:

  1. You will have the names you told the officer listed in your criminal history and
    maybe your DMV history, depending.
  2. You will be taken to the male or female booking section according to your
    anatomy      (unless you are in San Francisco, CA.)

  • The other inmates will see you come in as you are dressed and that may present a
health or safety risk for you
  • You will be subject to a strip search of your person and all of your possessions,
    clothing, and personal items will be taken from you.

  • You may be placed into “protective” custody for your stay in jail because they will
    associate you with other members of the LGBT Community and segregate you from
    the main jail population.

  1. If they do not segregate you, and you feel that you need “protective” custody
    because you are in contact with people that are going to harm you, you need to
    tell                   the jail “Classification” officer.

8.        What do I do if the law enforcement officer is rude, and or belittles me, because I
am dressed or he or she finds out that I am transgender?

  • There are a number of things that you can do in dealing with the officer:

  1. The officer may not know that they are offending you, so tell them politely that
    they         are offending you and what how they are offending you.  This may help
    the officer to     understand what mistakes they are making and allow them to
    correct the offensive       behavior.
  2. If the officer does not get the hint a more direct approach may be necessary.  Try
    to     remember the words that the officer used so that you can recount them later.
  3. Ask the officer for their name, badge number and the name of their agency.  
    Do            this politely and without attitude.
  4. Call for a Field Supervisor, which is usually a Sergeant and explain your
    complaint       to the supervisor.  They may not do anything while you are there but
    they will                   address it with the officer later in private either informally or
    formally depending             upon your wishes.
  5. If the complaint is important to you, you should contact the department, or
    the                  agency’s Internal Affairs Unit and make your complaint about the
    officer’s rude,           abusive, and or criminal conduct.
  6. Understand that any complaint that you make against the officer, will not make
    any       criminal charges “go away”, unless they are false.
  7. Many agencies have some oversight of their Internal Affairs Unit.  This may be
    a            Police Commission” or an “Independent Police Auditor” or called
    something else       but if you feel that you can not go to IA then this is an

  • Generally speaking, from my experience most police agencies with a specific               
    Internal Affairs Unit or investigator, are quite interested in misconduct by their                
    officers and they DO investigate and make recommendations to the Chief of                  
    Police, Sheriff, or Agency Administrator regarding whether the illegal or                   
    inappropriate activity by their employee was against departmental policies or               
    against the law and the officer is held accountable.

  1. This process is not a public one generally.  The employee has rights and
    the                 employer is required to protect many of these rights for the employee,
    until due             process has been completed through a civil service hearing, and
    or criminal court        proceeding.

9.        Can a police officer search my car or my person?

  • The answer is yes……and no; depending on the circumstances.  

  1. If you committed a crime or the officer believes that you have committed a
    crime,       they have the right to conduct a search of your person for evidence.  
    This search          may extend to your vehicle, if you are driving one at the time of
    the contact with the      officer.
  2. Understand that if you are on probation or parole and subject to search
    and                seizure; that an officer may have cause to conduct such a search of
    your person,          vehicle and or residence.  The conditions of probation or parole
    which restrict you      will determine the depth to which the officer may invade
    your privacy.
  3. If the officer asks you for permission to search your person or vehicle you are
    not        required to allow it and may stated that you prefer not to give your
    permission; respectfully.
  4. Even if the officer has legal cause to search, they may ask your permission
    first          and if you decline they can and generally will search anyways, but they
    will have to        justify this, usually in a police report.
  5. If there is no crime and the officer searches against your will, then you
    should              consult an attorney and you may also make a complaint to the

10.      What do I do if I am the victim of a hate crime or a bias incident?

  • Protect yourself and your friends by seeking safety first and calling the police or local
    sheriff where the incident took place.

  • Seek medical treatment by calling 911 or going to a hospital for treatment of severe

  • Try to remain at the scene to help the officers identify the crime scene, collect
    physical          evidence, and identify witnesses if possible.

  • If you can not stay at the scene because it is unsafe, try to remember where it  
    happened, so that the officer can go there and investigate further.

  • Report the crime to the police or sheriff where it happened. Jurisdiction is important.

  • The officers are required to take a crime report and to investigate the crime or incident.
    If they are not going to take a police report, demand that a report is taken.  Ask for the
    case number and the officer’s name and badge number. They are required to provide
    you with this information.

                             WHEN CONTACTED BY THE POLICE:

1.        Be polite.  Politeness goes a long way in setting the tone of the encounter and the officer will be
more likely to return the politeness throughout the encounter.  In the same regard, attitude, sets the
tone; your’s as well as the officer’s.  

2.        Try not to be confrontational with the officer.  This could lead to the officer becoming more
suspicious and digging into the situation, which may expose you to arrest, if you have committed a

3.        Officers have discretion regarding arrest and do NOT have to arrest a person, even if they have
committed a crime, but given the choice when there is confrontation, arrest may occur.  No not give
them extra ammunition against you.  Your attitude may influence their actions and could save you from
legal difficulties.

4.        Be honest and forthright about your identity and gender, with the officer.  The officer will
understand that you may have other “issues” which explain multiple names, genders, identifications
and personal history.

5.        Do not commit a crime.  Do not be associated with someone in the commission of a crime.  
Make sure that you do not have any arrest or bench warrants for your arrest.  These may subject you to
a stay on the local jail.

6.        Do not give false information to a peace officer.

7.        Do not have more than one identification in different names, date of births, and genders.

8.        Change your name and gender markers through legal process and stay with that name and
identity.  Be consistent.

9.        If you are in transition having all of your papers available to you with name change with DMV,
the courts, Social Security etc….. it may be prudent to assist in clarifying any perceived
miscommunication by law enforcement.  (COPIES are perfectly acceptable for this situation.

10.        If you encounter problems with the officer being rude after you explain the circumstances to
him or her, then you should contact their superior and explain your grievance and ask for corrective

11.        If you are not satisfied with the supervisor’s remedy, contact Internal Affairs and make a
personal complaint against the officer for their rudeness, violations of policy or procedure, or criminal

12.        If you can not go to Internal Affairs, then seek out the next level of complaint, through the
governing body, such as a police commission, independent police auditor or human rights

13.        If your complaint is a crime against you or another person by a peace officer, you can also go
to the State Attorney General’s Office, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if it is a corruption issue
or your civil rights were violated.

14.        If you are a victim of a Hate Crime or a Bias Related incident, report it to the local authorities.  
It is a crime for a peace officer NOT to take a crime report, in the State of California.

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