Helping Clients Protect Their Future and Their Liberty

What Texans should know about the “Failure to Identify” law

On Behalf of | May 31, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Many people aren’t sure what to do if they’re stopped and questioned by police – whether in their vehicle, on a sidewalk or in any space. Some people answer their questions and then some, either because they’re confident they’ve done nothing wrong, or they hope that being cooperative will make them look innocent. That’s generally not a good idea.

Others take their “right to remain silent” too literally. People don’t have to answer most law enforcement officers’ questions without legal representation. However, they are usually required to identify themselves (via document and/or verbally) when asked to.

What does the law say?

That’s the case throughout the U.S. Here in Texas, we have a “Failure to Identify” law. It’s a violation of the law when someone “intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer” when they’ve been lawfully detained or arrested or if an officer has “good cause to believe [they’re] a witness to a criminal offense.” Further, it’s illegal to provide a “false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth.” 

A person who doesn’t provide the identifying information requested in these situations can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If they provide false information, they can face a Class B misdemeanor charge, which could mean jail time.

What other consequences can result from not identifying yourself?

While these might not sound like especially serious charges, they would be added to any that a person is facing for other alleged offenses. Further, if an officer believes someone is hindering an investigation or not complying, they can likely find a reason to arrest them, even if they didn’t previously intend to. 

It’s never smart to get off to a bad start in any police encounter, no matter how unfair you think it is. Not identifying yourself isn’t going to do you any good. Just remember that if you’re told you are not free to go, you can then calmly and respectfully state that you’re asserting your right to remain silent. If you’re arrested, it’s wise to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights.