If a police officer in Texas has pulled you over and you do not identify yourself, you can be charged with a misdemeanor under a new Texas law involving failure to identify with police during a traffic stop.
Texas drivers need to know the new law
“If there’s enough probable cause for us to make an arrest in that case, we will, and we want people who are out there to be aware of the laws, the new laws,” Tyler Police Public Information Officer Andy Erbaugh said in an interview with KLTV Texas News. “It’s not a defense to your prosecution that you were unaware of the law. You have to know the laws in your state, and this is a good one because a lot of people are contacted on traffic stops. So, it’s a good one to get out there and for people to know.”
What is Texas Senate Bill 1551?
Texas Senate Bill 1551 (SB 1551) went into effect on September 1, 2023, and applies to all drivers in Texas who have been stopped by a law enforcement official and “who is lawfully detained by a peace officer for an alleged violation of a law."
When such a situation occurs, the driver must provide the police officer or state trooper with a valid driver’s license. In addition, the driver must provide the police officer with their name, address, or date of birth if the law enforcement official requests such information.
What are the penalties for failure to identify during a traffic stop?
If someone fails to identify who they are during a traffic stop in Texas, that individual can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class C Misdemeanor, the punishment is a $500 fine, KLTV Texas News reports.
Previously, drivers arrested by a police officer could only be prosecuted for providing false identification during a traffic stop. Currently, providing false identification during a traffic stop can be punishable as a Class B Misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class B Misdemeanor, the penalty is up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, KLTV Texas News reports.
Is there a legal defense for failure to identify during a traffic stop?
If you have been charged with failure to identify during a traffic stop in Texas, don’t automatically assume there’s nothing you can do. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be able to have your charges dismissed or dropped for several reasons, including:
- There is no probable cause for pulling you over in the first place. Police officers cannot simply stop someone for any reason. Police must have probable cause to stop a driver.
- Arresting police officers failed to identify themself as a law enforcement official.
- Your rights were violated during your arrest. For example, the arresting police officer might not have informed you of your legal rights, or the arresting police officer physically assaulted you during your arrest.
Again, just because you have been charged with a crime does not automatically mean you are guilty. Everyone in Texas has legal rights, including someone charged with failure to identify to police during a traffic stop.
Contact a Texas criminal defense attorney for help
Legal cases involving traffic stops in Texas often become complicated because the laws are constantly changing. That’s why it’s critical that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side who’s familiar with the latest laws and how the legal system works in Texas.
As a former prosecutor, Attorney Amanda Webb thoroughly understands the laws that apply to criminal cases in Texas. If you're facing charges in Conroe or anywhere in Montgomery County, our law firm can protect your rights and aggressively advocate for your best interests.