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The “right to remain silent” doesn’t include identifying yourself

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Recently, we discussed the importance of understanding your constitutional rights — some of which are covered in the Miranda warning — and how best to invoke your right to remain silent. As we noted, it’s crucial to tell law enforcement that you’re invoking this right and not just clam up.

Unfortunately, some people think the “right to remain silent” means that if they’re stopped by police, whether in their vehicle or in any public or private space, they don’t have to say anything to them. That’s not entirely the case. Throughout the U.S., people typically are required to give their name and other identifying information like their address and/or present valid documentation like a driver’s license when requested by police. Further, that information needs to be accurate. 

Texas’ “Failure to Identify” law

Here in Texas, the “Failure to Identify” law states that a person who “intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer” to police who have lawfully detained or arrested them or have “good cause to believe [they’re] a witness to a criminal offense can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

It’s a Class B misdemeanor to provide a “false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth.” That could result in incarceration.

Why else is not providing accurate identifying information unwise?

First, it gets you off to a very unpleasant start with an officer, and it won’t stop them from finding out who you are one way or another. Further, anything that can be construed as failing to comply or interfering with an officer’s job can get you charged with other crimes.

Once you’ve provided that identifying information, you don’t have to answer other questions and should ask whether you’re free to go. As noted at the beginning, however, you need to state that you’re invoking your rights – and do so respectfully and calmly.

It’s always wise to have legal representation before you submit to an interrogation by police – particularly if you’re under arrest. This can help you protect your rights. If you’re already facing charges, it’s not too late to get legal guidance.