In Texas, there are only a few circumstances that you need to identify yourself to police officers. If you identify yourself to an officer, the first thing they’re going to do is check for any outstanding warrants for your arrest. There’s no benefit to identifying yourself to an officer when you don’t have to.
Remember, you always have the right to remain silent and you have the right to have an attorney present if you’re being questioned. If you’re being questioned about anything more than speeding, you should immediately tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent. You should also tell the officer that you want to speak with an attorney. After that, you should stop talking.
Generally, you have no duty to identify yourself to police. If you are driving in Texas and you’re pulled over, you need to give your drivers license to the officer (Tex. Trans. Code § 521.025(a)). If you are being detained or if you are a witness, it is against the law to give false information (name, date of birth, address). Lastly, if you’re under arrest, you have to give your name, date of birth, and address to police, if requested. You do not need to provide them with any other information.
While you do have to give your drivers license if you’re driving a car, you do not have to do that or identify yourself if you’re a passenger. Don’t give false information, but you should know that you don’t have to give any information in that situation.
You are detained when an officer has stopped you to investigate a crime. That can be anything from a traffic stop, a DWI investigation, or interrogating you downtown. In each of those cases, you have no obligation to tell the officer who you are. If you’re not sure if you’re free to go, being detained, or under arrest, ask the officer.
The punishment for failure to identify is different based on the circumstances. If you’re under arrest and you refuse to give your information, it’s only a Class C misdemeanor (the same as a speeding ticket), if you are being detained, you’re under arrest, or are a witness and you give false information, it’s a Class B Misdemeanor (up to 6 months in jail). In either of those two situations, if there’s a warrant for your arrest, it increases the punishment by one level: Class C (max $500 fine) goes to Class B (up to 6 months in jail), Class B goes to Class A (up to a year in jail).
The main takeaway is that you only have to identify yourself to officers if you’re driving or under arrest. You shouldn’t give officers false information, because that could lead to you being charged with failure to identify in situations where not identifying yourself at all would not. If an officer tells you they will charge you with failing to identify, just ask if you’re under arrest and what for. They can’t put you under arrest for failing to identify just to get your information, you have to be under arrest for something else before you have the obligation to give your information.
If you have any questions about when you have to identify yourself to police in Texas or if you’re being charged with a crime in San Antonio, give me a call at 210-900-2806 or click the link below to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to helping you out.
Texas Penal Code Sec. 38.02. FAILURE TO IDENTIFY.
(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.
(c) Except as provided by Subsections (d) and (e), an offense under this section is:
- (1) a Class C misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (a); or
- (2) a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (b).
(d) If it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that the defendant was a fugitive from justice at the time of the offense, the offense is:
- (1) a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (a); or
- (2) a Class A misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (b).