With the recent controversy in Austin, Texas there has been a significant amount of speculation on what the Texas “failure to identify” laws are. There is confusion about when an individual must provide a peace officer with the requested information. Texas Law states that if arrested, you must provide your name, address and date of birth. Police may ask for more information. However, the real controversy lies in situations where the stopped person is not being arrested. A person must be stopped lawfully, in order for them to have to provide the peace officer with information. Several things have to occur for an individual to be lawfully stopped and there are two situations that can result in a failure to identify charge.

A) A person commits an offense of failure to identify if he/she intentionally refuses to give his name, 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 of failure to identify if he/she intentionally gives a false name, address or date of birth. (Giving fictitious identification cards to a police officer may be a different charge in itself).

These apply whether a person is being arrested or detained, lawfully. The officer can also request information from a person if he/she has good cause to believe that they are a witness to a criminal offense.

Lawful Detainment

Before being stopped, an officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is about to occur. They must be able to state facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime occurred or will be occurring soon. If the detainment or arrest is lawful, the officer may ask questions and request information.

Defense Against These Claims

Fighting Failure to Identify claims is possible, but can be difficult. The person in question would have to prove that their detainment or arrest was unlawful and without probable cause. A person may also fight a failure to identify claim if the law that they were questioned about or detained/arrested for, is vague. Such an example is the public intoxication of a homeless person or a person without means to support themselves. A homeless person does not have a place of residence and lives in public space. Therefore, making the law vague.

Penalties For Failing To Identify

The penalties for failing to identify are typically Class C misdemeanors, unless the person in question is a fugitive at the time of the arrest or the detainment. If this situation occurs, failing to identify can be considered a Class B misdemeanor. A person that has been charged with failing to identify can receive up to 6 months in a county jail, if the Court sees fit. The Court can also decide what kind of jail the person in question serves time in. A person who fails to identify themselves may also receive fines up to $2,000.00 from the Court and probation. It is not uncommon for those who fail to identify to have to report to a probation officer to discuss terms and conditions following a charge. Community service is also a common probation term that is associated with failing to identify. The Court decides how many community service hours are required for the individual to complete.

If you or anyone that you know is in need of legal counsel for failing to identify or any other criminal defense claims, contact The Law Offices of Gregory R. Terra today!