Happy Friday, everybody. Hope you all had a great week. This week I got an interesting question from a high school friend of mine who reached out, who watches these videos and wanted to know the answer of, if you are the passenger in a car that the police pull over, are you required as the passenger to give them your identification, your ID? Good question. Very interesting question. Now, I’ll preface my answer by saying this one is pretty state specific. So, your mileage may vary on this answer depending on where you live. So, my answer is going to deal with Texas law only. Right? So, if you live anywhere that’s not in the state of Texas, take this answer with a grain of salt. Talk to a local lawyer, if you really want to know what the local answer is.
So, here in Texas, Texas does have a failure to ID law. Okay? I’ll put the code section down below here so you all can look it up. But what that law says is that, if you are lawfully arrested, then you are required to provide the arresting officer with your name, your address, and your date of birth. Those are the three things you’re required to give the arresting officer. You don’t necessarily have to give them ID, but you have to give them those three pieces of information if you’re arrested. Right? That’s what the law says.
Further, the Texas Transportation Code says that, if you’re driving a car and you get pulled over, you are required to show proof of having a valid driver’s license. So, there you must provide a copy of your ID or your driver’s license to show that you are licensed to drive the motor vehicle.
Now, even though I stressed, when I talked about that failure to ID law, that you’re required to give those three pieces of information if you’re lawfully arrested, there have been many, many occasions where a police officer who doesn’t quite understand the nuance of the law will threaten or actually, in some cases, actually arrest somebody who refuses to comply with a request for their name, address, and date of birth thinking that that law says that anytime you’re asked by a police officer for that information that you have to give it. That’s not what the law says. It may not keep you from getting arrested if you want to argue with the officer about it, but that’s not what the law says. There have been several cases that have very clearly interpreted that statute and have said that, unless it is a lawful arrest or unless that officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are committing or have just committed a criminal offense, they cannot request that information from you.
So, that leads us to the ultimate question of, if you’re the passenger in a car, are you required to show ID? The simple answer to that is no. And there’s two cases that basically that. And I’ll put their names and links down below. One is Louis v. State. It’s back from 1984. And then, one is more recent. I believe it’s from 2007. And I think that one is Grace v. State or something similar. I haven’t read it in a while. So, forgive me if I get that case name wrong, but I will look it up prior to posting this and put the link down below.
So, but those two cases basically say that, when a vehicle is pulled over, a priority of that traffic stop or a purpose of that traffic stop is not to investigate the passenger of the vehicle. And, since there is no articulable, rational suspicion that the passenger is engaged in any criminal activity, they are not required to submit ID to the investigating officer, absent some other extraneous circumstance.
Now, if the car is being pulled over because it is suspected of being involved in a bank robbery, let’s say. And so, every occupant of that vehicle is suspected of committing that crime, it’s a different story. But just a typical traffic stop where they pull you over for speeding, or your license plate light being out, something like that, they cannot lawfully ask the passenger to produce identification.
Now, keep in mind, if you are asked for identification and you give a fake name or a fake date of birth, you have committed a totally new offense now, and all bets are off. But you are well within your constitutional and statutory rights to say, “Officer, I’m refusing to give you that information, unless you can explain to me why it is that you’re asking for it.” You are within your rights to say that. Now, again, you’re kind of taking a gamble that the officer knows how the law works and won’t escalate the situation from there, but that’s the technical legal answer.
As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, please feel free to reach out to me via email. My email address is on the last slide of the video. Let me know what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. I’m always happy to get suggestions and questions that I can try to answer. But, until then, I hope you all have an excellent weekend, and I look forward to talking to you all next Friday.
- Texas Penal Code Sec. 38.02(a): https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.38.htm#:~:text=38.02.,person%20and%20requested%20the%20information.
- Lewis v. State, 664 S.W.2d 345 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984): https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/court-of-criminal-appeals/1984/63237-3.html
- George v. State, 237 S.W.3d 720 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007): https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/court-of-criminal-appeals/2007/pd-999-06-5.html