Daniel J. Wright
If a police officer asks for my ID do I have to give it to him?
Like all good legal questions, this one requires the same answer: it depends. Knowing when you must identify yourself to a police officer is a question that requires careful consideration, as a criminal lawyer Arlington, TX relies on can explain. There are many activities in our country that require and ID and are not “rights” but “privileges.” The most common example of this would be driving. A person’s ability to drive is a privilege that is earned by them when they acquire a driver’s license. That privilege can be revoked by the State and does require that if a police officer requests to see your identification during a traffic stop, you must provide that to him. The more difficult question comes when you are a passenger in the vehicle that is being stopped. Does a passenger have to identify himself if asked by a police officer? The long and the short of it is, no he does not. If a police officer during a routine traffic stop asks you as a passenger to provide him with identification you are well within your rights to refuse to provide that to the officer. Please be aware that this refusal could irritate the officer and put you in handcuffs, lawfully or not. I have seen this occur on many occasions. Of course, it is a charge that will not progress very far in the criminal justice system but the fact that you are arrested and required to post a bond amount can be a huge deterrent from not showing a police officer one’s identification.
The law in the State of Texas, as written, only requires that a person present identification to a police officer when the person is lawfully arrested, and the police officer requests the information. To present a hypothetical, if a car is pulled over and the officer asks the driver for his driver’s license, must he present it to the officer? Yes, he is exercising a privilege that requires you to have a valid driver’s license. So, regardless if the driver is placed under arrest or not, he must show his identification when requested. Failure to do so, will most likely result in charges. What about the passenger in the vehicle? No, the passenger on the other hand is under no legal obligation to provide the officer with his identification. The passenger is not under arrest nor is he exercising any privilege that requires a valid ID. What if the passenger lies to the police officer instead of just declining to give him his ID? That is a bigger issue. The passenger now can be charged with a misdemeanor. It is a crime in the State of Texas to provide a false or fictitious name to an officer when you are under arrest or lawfully detained. A traffic stop is a form of lawful detainment and requires a passenger to be honest if the passenger does decide to provide the officer with identification information. This is one of the most common laws that gets a bit confused among the public. Where it is important to politely and respectfully interact with a police officer, it is also important to know your rights and requirements under the law.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into criminal defense.