UPDATED 7/29/2021, 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.
In general, it’s advisable to be tight-lipped when talking to law enforcement until you have an attorney present to make sure that your rights are protected. That said, there’s certain information you’re required to provide, and failure to do so can result in criminal charges under Texas statute, “Offenses Against Public Administration.”
Whatever the context, police 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 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.
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, and you’re asked for your name. Afraid your neighbors will know it’s you who complained, you lie.
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 you’ve obstructed the investigation of a crime by not providing accurate information.
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.
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.
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.
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), and the failure to identify. 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 avoid lying. 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 law, Failure To Identify is classified under two designations:
- Failure To Identify – this is the basic crime of failure to identify that we have been discussing. This crime is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
- 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.
Possible Defenses To Failure To Identify
If you are facing a charge of Failure to Identify, what defense could be used to minimize your charges? Below are a list of defenses and tactics that your criminal defense attorney could employ to help you get your failure to identify case dismissed.
- 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.
- 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.
If you are facing a Failure To Identify case in the North Texas area, don’t hesitate to contact the Fulgham Law Firm for a free case analysis and consultation. 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.
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.