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Do I Have to Give the Cops My Name?

In the U.S., if you're involved in an interaction with law enforcement officials, you have the right to remain silent. But does that protection extend to providing your name to the police? Can you lawfully refuse to give your personal identifying information when you've been detained or arrested? In Texas, the answers to those questions lie in Penal Code 38.02, failure to identify. The law provides that in some cases, you do not have to give your name to the cops, but in others, you do. Let's look at that statute more closely.

Refusing to Give Your Name During a Lawful Arrest

Texas Penal Code 38.02(a) states that it is a crime for a person to intentionally refuse to give their information to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested them.

This means that if an arresting officer asks, you must give them the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth

Any refusal can result in a criminal charge under this statute. Thus, if you're arrested for an alleged offense, and you do not answer an officer's questions or you say something such as "I'm not giving that to you" when they ask for your name or address, you're committing an offense.

It's important to note that the statute provides that refusing to provide your name is a crime only if it was done intentionally. Suppose you were nervous during your arrest. Because your emotions were heightened, you weren't thinking clearly and didn't process the request for your personal identifying information. You didn't mean to withhold your name; it just happened. Depending on the circumstances, lack of intent may be raised in a failure to identify case.

Subsection (a) of the law does not state that it is unlawful to refuse to provide your personal identifying information when you are detained – only if you've been lawfully arrested.

Refusing to identify to law enforcement is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500. The charge increases to a Class B misdemeanor when the defendant is a fugitive from justice, such as having a warrant in their name. Then, the penalties include up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

Providing False Information

If you are lawfully detained on suspicion of an alleged offense, you cannot provide law enforcement officials with a false name, address, or date of birth. If you do so, you are violating Subsection (b) of the failure to identify law. What this means is that if you are stopped by police and intentionally you give them your friend's name and address when asked, your actions are considered an offense.

The law doesn't just apply when you're lawfully detained. Providing false information if you're lawfully arrested or believed to be a witness to a crime is also an offense.

An offense under Subsection (b) is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries conviction penalties of up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 180 days in jail. If the defendant is a fugitive from justice, the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, a conviction for which is penalized by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $4,000 in fines.

Giving Information Beyond Your Name

When can you invoke your right to remain silent? Beyond providing your name, address, and date of birth to cops when lawfully required, you do not have to give any other statements. You can politely refuse to answer questions, and you cannot be punished for doing so.

If you're suspected of a crime, it's crucial to stay silent, even if you merely want to explain your side of the story. Before making any statements speak with a skilled lawyer.

If you or a loved one is charged with or being investigated for an offense in Dallas, contact Hamilton Grant PC at (214) 225-7117 to get serious defense on your side.