The following blog post conerns only failure to identify in Texas. Failure to identify laws vary state to state.
While it is unfortunately too common for persons to be arrested for failure to identity in Texas, there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding failure to identity and specifically when a person is required to provide identification to a law enforcement officer. These misunderstandings range from: persons are always under any condition required to identify themselves to an officer (sometimes the view held by officers themselves) to the other extreme in which a person may believe he or she is never required to identify themselves, e.g. a right to remain silent also means remaining silent regarding one’s identity. In this blog post, we will clear up what failure to identify means and when a person is legally required to provide identification to an officer.
What is Failure to Identify?
Failure to identify is covered under [Texas Penal Code 38.02.] A direct quote of the law from 38.02 is as follows:
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
(b) A person commits an offense if he intentionally gives a false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has:
(1) lawfully arrested the person;
(2) lawfully detained the person; or
(3) requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense.
There are two aspects to the above definition regarding when an offense has taken place. The first concerns when a person has been arrested and refuses to provide identification. The second concerns when a person has been arrested or detained or is believed to be a witness to a crime and provides false information.
If a person has been lawfully arrested they must provide identification to law enforcement officers [or will be charged with failure to identify.] This aspect corrects both extremes regarding misunderstanding of failure to identify, namely: persons are not always obligated to provide identification to law inforcement officers — only upon being lawfully arrested. However, once arrested, in regards to self-identification there is no ‘right to remain silent’ as this only concerns self-incrimimination in which it’s been ruled merely identifying oneself does not classify as self-incrimination.
However, there is a caveat – if a driver of a motor vehicle is stopped on suspicision of a crime or traffic violation, they must show their drivers license. The reason is because legally driving requires a legally validated driver’s license (as well as insurance.)
The other aspect of failure to identify concerns intentionally providing false information regarding identity. One can be charged with failure to identify even if they have not been arrested if they intentionally provide false identification when detained or when an officer has good cause to believe they have been witness to a crime. What constitutes ‘good cause’ is a complex issue and in most cases it is likely best to assume the officer has good cause to ask for identification – however if you believe the officer does not have good cause and refused to provide identification it is important to contact an experienced Houston defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation.
Consequences for Failure to Identify
Like most offenses, the consequence of a failure to identify conviction will vary based on the circumstances of the crime. A conviction for failure to identify after a person has been arrested is considered a Class C misdemeanor in Texas and carries a punishment of up to a $500 fine. Providing intentionally false identification after arrest, detainment, or when there is good cause of being witness to a crime is considered a Class C misdemeanor and carries up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2000 fine. If a person is a fugitive then failure to identify is increased, so the Class C becomes a Class B and the Class B intentional falsification becomes a Class A misdemeanor.
Even though these are misdemeanors they are serious offenses that can carry life long consequences on a person’s record. As such, if you or a loved one is charged with failure to identify in Harris County or surrounding areas you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Carl Haggard of The Haggard Law Firm has been fighting for the people of Houston for over 30 years against failure to identify charges and has a verifiable winning record. Call (832) 328-0600 or email today for a free confidential consultation regarding your case and Carl Haggard will go to work fighting for you.