When Can You Be Charged with Failure to Identify in Texas?

By February 14, 2020November 12th, 2021Failure to Identify After an Accident

UPDATED November 2, 2021, Original Post: February 14, 2020

Many people are uncertain about how to behave around a police officer, including what information they are required to provide, and what information can be withheld. It’s understandable. If you say the wrong thing, will you go to jail? Maybe you thought you said the right thing by exercising your rights but you were arrested anyway?

If you have been arrested for Failure to ID or Failure to Identify – Fugitive in Fort Worth, Texas or in the surrounding cities in Tarrant County, Texas, you need to know what Texas criminal law requires the State of Texas to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and you need to make certain you have retained an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney to work to ensure you receive a fair and favorable result.

In general, it’s advisable to be tight-lipped when talking to law enforcement until you have a criminal attorney present to make sure that your rights are protected. That said, there’s certain information you’re required to provide to a police officer, and failure to do so can result in criminal charges under Texas statute, “Offenses Against Public Administration.”

Whatever the context, police officers frequently ask people to provide their name, address, and date of birth. Only under certain contexts are you actually required to provide this information, but giving false information is always considered a criminal offense.

Let’s take a look at what, exactly, constitutes a failure to identify, and the scenarios under which you could potentially face failure to identify charges.

When Am I Required to Identify Myself to the Texas Police?

Any time you’re speaking to law enforcement, it’s important to be aware of what information you are required to provide. Legally, you are only required to give your name, address and date of birth to the police if you are placed under lawful arrest.

Under other situations (for example, if you’re being interviewed or detained but are not under arrest), you are not required to disclose your identity.

However, giving a false identity is a criminal offense almost always results in a criminal charge of failure to identify, a misdemeanor offense.

When Can Texans Be Charged With Failure to Identify?

Generally speaking, two scenarios give rise to Texas failure to identify charges:

  • The defendant is under lawful arrest, and either refuses to disclose their identity or gives false identifying information.
  • The defendant is speaking with the police, either freely or while detained but not arrested, and gives false identifying information.

Giving False Information When Your Identity is Requested

When speaking to civilians under any context, police commonly ask for identifying information. You’re not required to reveal your identity, but you also can’t give false information.

For example, your neighbors are having a loud party that’s been going on all night. You finally decide it’s time to call the cops to break it up because you are not getting any sleep. The police show up at your front door and you’re asked for your name, date of birth and driver’s license. Afraid your neighbors will know it’s you who complained, you lie and give a different full name.

The police break up the party but find evidence of other criminal activity that needs to be investigated. If they come to you for more information and learn you’ve given false information, you might face charges, too. This is because the police will argue that you’ve obstructed the investigation of a crime by not providing accurate information. More importantly, you could face Failure to identify charges because you gave FALSE information to the police officer, which is evidence sufficient to establish probable cause for an arrest.

It’s better to explain yourself – “I’d rather keep this report anonymous because I don’t want to face repercussions from an angry neighbor for calling.” This explanation would save you from a potential arrest, while keeping your report anonymous.

Giving False Identification While Detained

Even if a suspect is detained, they are not required to provide their identity, but they are also not allowed to give false information.

For example, your friend was involved in a crime. The police take you in for questioning, meaning that you are detained but not under arrest. Afraid you’ll somehow incriminate your friend, you give the police a false name. We see this happen all the time. Fear takes hold and someone responds to the police by trying to hide their identity from the police. If you have done nothing wrong, it is better to identify yourself and remain silent regarding any additional questioning.

Ultimately the police learn that you provided a false identity, and suddenly, you find that like the friend you were trying to protect, you’re also facing charges of failure to identify.

Refusing to Identify When Under Arrest

If you are placed under a lawful arrest, you are required to provide the police with identifying information, including your name, address, and date of birth. For example, say you’re unexpectedly placed under arrest and asked to disclose your identity. Flustered, you remember that you should remain silent, and refuse to identify.

We see this happen all the time with public intoxication charges. You know you are not intoxicated. Despite this, the police have approached you and decided they do not like something about you and now they are claiming you are intoxicated and they arrest you for public intoxication. What if you know you are innocent? You didn’t do anything wrong! You have been wrongfully arrested!

Be careful! If you have been placed under arrest and you do not give accurate information regarding your name and date of birth, your situation will be much more serious.

At this point, you’ll be facing two potential charges: whatever you were arrested for (public intoxication – Class Misdemeanor punishable by a fine only!), and the failure to identify, a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. Of course, giving false information while under arrest would also be considered a failure to identify.

When talking to police, know exactly what information you’re required to provide, and above all else – avoid lying! Police officers usually take it personal when you lie to them and they almost always arrest you and charge you with failure to identify, even if you did nothing wrong. If you do get in trouble, get legal help sooner rather than later to minimize the potential consequences.

What Are the Penalties And Consequences For Failure To Identify?

Under Texas criminal law, Failure To Identify is classified under two designations:

  1. Failure To Identify – this is the basic crime of failure to identify that we have been discussing where you give false information to the police or fail to provide the basic required information. This crime is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
  2. Failure To Identify – Fugitive – this is the crime of failure to identify when you have an active warrant for your arrest. The State of Texas created this crime to punish offenders at a higher level of punishment for providing false information when trying to conceal their identity to avoid arrest for an active criminal warrant. Under Texas law, Failure To Identify – Fugitive is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine. For example, let’s say the police pull you over and you know you may have a traffic warrant for a speeding ticket you forgot to take care of a year ago. It may be tempting to lie to the officer about who you are and your other personal identifiers in the hopes he will let you off with a warning. However, being arrested for a traffic warrant is much better than facing a brand new Class A misdemeanor charge of failure to identify – fugitive.

Possible Defenses To Failure To Identify

If you are facing a charge of Failure to Identify, what criminal defense could be used to minimize or eliminate your charges? Below are a list of criminal defenses and tactics that your criminal defense attorney could employ to help you get your failure to identify case dismissed.

  1. Mistake – what if you were polite to the police and gave them your full name, date of birth and address? What if you used a nickname that you go by regularly? What if you gave your middle name that you go by instead of your legal first name? We have seen this happen many times! Under these circumstances, we may be able to show the prosecutor that you had no criminal intent to commit the crime of failure to identify. After all, why would someone give everything accurate about their identity and lie about a small detail?

It is critical to remember that the State of Texas must prove every element of the crime of failure to identify beyond a reasonable doubt. Any doubt created that implies the exchange of information was a mistake could lead to you being exonerated. In fact, if your failure to ID case is taken to a criminal jury trial, failure by the prosecutor to prove every element of the criminal offense, including criminal intent, will result in a not guilty verdict and eligibility for you to immediately have your fail to ID arrest and charge expunged from your criminal record.

  1. First Offender – is this your first offense for failure to identify? If so, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a conditional dismissal or help you get into a Diversion Program to get your criminal case dismissed. Although each county in Texas varies, you need to speak with you attorney about eligible diversion programs that may allow you to get your criminal case and arrest expunged from your record quickly. For example, in Tarrant county, a first-time offender on a failure to identify charge could be eligible for the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP), which allows the case to be dismissed and eligible for expunction as quickly as 4 months from start to finish.

If you are facing a Failure To Identify case in Fort Worth, Texas or the surrounding cities in Tarrant County, Texas, don’t hesitate to contact the Fulgham Law Firm for a free case analysis and consultation. We have handled hundreds of Failure to identify and failure to identify – fugitive cases and have successfully kept clients out of jail, protected them from a misdemeanor conviction and assisted in the removal of their criminal record through an expunction or non-disclosure. One of the most important decisions you will make at the beginning of your criminal case is the decision as to who you hire as your criminal defense lawyer. Do they have experience? Have they achieved results? We are a team of 5 former prosecutors with over 75 years of criminal experience ready to help you work to get your Fail to ID case dismissed. We will share the prosecutor’s evidence with you and sit down with you and formulate a custom defense strategy, while also answering all of your questions so that you feel comfortable with the plan to get your life back and protect your future!

About the Author:

Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.