What Does “failure To Identify” Mean?

In 2018, law enforcement in the Denton area responded to complaints that a suspect had fled from officers while attempting to climb onto a moving freight train. Workers from the Denton County Transportation initiated the chase when they noticed a man in a leather jacket near an electrical box. The man responded to law enforcement with a fake name and fake date of birth, and then tried to run from the area. In his attempt to flee, however, the man fell and scraped his hands before law enforcement detained him. It is uncertain if the man incurred any injuries as a result of his fall. The suspect was eventually taken city jail and charged with failure to identify as well as evading arrest.

Each year, a large number of people in Texas are charged with failure to identify. This is in part because there is a lot of misunderstanding about when a person must provide identification to law enforcement. While some people believe that they are always required to identify themselves to law enforcement, other people believe that they are never required to provide identification to law enforcement. To help clear up this misunderstanding, this article will take a look at what failure to identify means.

What Constitutes Failure to Identify

Texas Penal Code 38.02 defines failure to identify as occurring when:

  • A person intentionally refuses to provide his or her name, residence address, or date of birth to a law enforcement officer who has arrested the person and requested information.
  • Intentionally given a false name, false residence address, or fake date of birth to a law enforcement officer who has arrested the person, detained the person, or requested the information from a person whom the officer believes is a witness to a criminal offense

There are some important considerations involved with these laws. First, if a person has been lawfully arrested, then he or she must provide identification to law enforcement or risk being charged with failure to identify. As a result, you are not always obligated to provide identification to a law enforcement officer unless you are arrested. If you are operating a motor vehicle, however, and stopped on suspicion of a crime or traffic violation, you must show your identification to law enforcement. This is because lawfully driving a motor vehicle assumes that a person has a legal and valid driver’s license in addition to motor vehicle insurance.

The other important note concerns providing false information to law enforcement. A person can be charged with failure to identify as a result of this offense even if the person has not been arrested. Instead, failure to identify charges can be made in situations in which a person is detained or a law enforcement officer has good cause to believe that person was witness to a crime. Determining what constitutes good cause, however, is a complicated issue, and it is a good idea to assume that a law enforcement officer always has good cause to ask for identification.

Speak to a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Even though failure to identify is classified as a misdemeanor, it is still a serious offense that can cause many undesired consequences. As a result, if you or a loved one has been charged with failure to identify, it is a wise idea to obtain the assistance of a strong criminal defense attorney. Contact Wheeler Law Office today for assistance.

(image courtesy of Andrew Neel)