A recent post in a Texas Lawyers forum raised the question of whether a person who is detained by the police has to identify themselves. It makes sense for an officer to ask for your license if you were driving, but what is your duty to identify yourself when the police stop you and you weren’t driving?
There were 50 comments on the Texas Lawyers thread within an hour, and if anything was clear, it was this: “Failure to ID” is a confusing charge, even for lawyers.
So let’s break it down.
If you are under arrest and the arrest is lawful, it is a crime to not provide identifying information to police. Failure to identify yourself when an officer has lawfully arrested you is a Class C misdemeanor offense in Texas, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.
This same offense rises to a Class B misdemeanor if you fail to identify yourself to an officer who has lawfully arrested you and you have a warrant out for your arrest.
It turns out you only have to identify yourself if you are under arrest, not merely detained. That’s surprising. If you want to read the statute, turn to Penal Code 38.02.
There is no requirement to identify yourself unless you are under arrest. If you are detained, you may choose not to identify yourself, but lying about your identity while you are detained is an offense.
The title of the offense is confusing. Failure to ID, when it occurs before a person is under arrest, means a person gave a false name or date of birth. It’s sometimes listed as Failure to Identify – False or Fictitious Information. In other words, there would have been no criminal charge for failing to identify if the person had kept quiet during their detention. It is their lie that got them in trouble.
Things change when you are placed under arrest. If you are arrested, you must give your name, date of birth, and address.
Yes. You must provide your name, date of birth, and address. There is no requirement to provide that information in any particular form, such as a license or identification card.
Again, in Texas, if you are not under arrest, you do not have to identify yourself. You can simply decline to provide your name and date of birth. Likewise, if you are being detained, but not under arrest, you are not required to identify yourself to police. This is why most officers who stop a motorist ask for license and registration, which provides them with the information they want without having to ask for it.
In Texas, it is a crime to intentionally give an officer false or fictitious identifying information when the officer has:
Giving false information is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. It is important to point out that the crime here wasn’t failing to provide identifying information, but rather, it was falsifying the information that was provided. For example, if you are being detained and intentionally gave a false name or an address that didn’t exist, you could be charged with failure to identify.
If you have a warrant out for your arrest, the punishment is increased one level. A Class C misdemeanor for refusing to identify yourself becomes a Class B misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor for providing false information becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This is often referred to as Failure to ID – Fugitive.
If you have been charged with a failure to identify in Fort Worth, you are likely to be overwhelmed and unsure of your legal options. By working with a knowledgeable lawyer, you could better understand your rights and decide how to proceed.