Information required to be given to a police officer in Texas


In Texas and in most states, we are generally required to give a police officer, upon request, some information about ourselves. In Texas, we are required to give them our name, residence address, or date of birth upon request if lawfully arrested. You can “give it” verbally or by producing your identification. You should never give false or fictitious information to a police officer. (See Section 38.02 of the Texas Penal Code)
Does the requirement to identify ourselves violate our constitutional rights? Specifically, our 4th Amendment to our constitution does not allow unreasonable searches and seizures and the 5th Amendment gives us the privilege of not being required to incriminate ourselves. If the detention is legal, their request is not an unreasonable search and seizure, but there may be a situation where you could rely on the 5th amendment where giving the information might be incriminating. If so, you will probably have to challenge the issue in court after you are arrested for Failure to Identify. (Note- when in doubt about being detained or arrested, you can ask if you are free to leave)
The penalty for violating Section 38.02 ranges from a Class C misdemeanor up to Class A misdemeanor. If you are legally arrested and refuse to give the information requested (name, residence address, or date of birth), you can be arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor, unless you are a fugitive of justice (i.e. wanted for murder or have an outstanding warrant for an unpaid ticket) then it will be a Class B misdemeanor. If you are lawfully detained or the police officer has reason to believe you are a witness to a criminal offense and you give false or fictitious information, then you can be arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor, unless you are a fugitive of justice, then it can be charged as Class A misdemeanor.
As of today, if I am legally detained or arrested, I will give my name, residence address, and date of birth to a police officer if requested. Even if their detention is illegal, I will probably give that information (unless I’m feeling a little feisty that day). However, if giving that information will incriminate me in some way; I may invoke my constitutional rights and remain silent. I can’t imagine how giving them my driver’s license will ever incriminate me. I suppose if I have been drinking, I may not want to give the information verbally.
Additionally, I would consider recording all contact with police officers. I realize that sounds like paranoia, but I’ve seen a lot over the years, personally and professionally, and know that we have to protect ourselves from many police officers. Regardless, I will be polite and courteous. Consider the possible situation where you are stopped and give your information correctly, but the officer heard it or said he heard it differently. Most police officers have recording devices in their vehicles and are supposed to use them, but many times, the recordings get lost or destroyed.

Live a free life, as much as they’ll let us.

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