Do I Have to Identify Myself to a Police Officer?

In Utah, a police officer might stop you for several reasons: They may suspect that you committed a crime, a traffic violation, or have information about a criminal offense. During the stop, the officer may ask for your name and your date of birth. Although the interaction may be scary and you might have trouble processing what's happening, it's important that you provide the officer with your personal identifying information.

If the stop is lawful, failing to provide your name or date of birth is a crime. Under Utah Code § 76-8-301.5, such action (or inaction) can result in a class B misdemeanor charge. If you're later convicted of the offense of failure to disclose identity, the court can impose a jail term of up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Providing Information Besides Your Name and Date of Birth

During a stop, the officer might be trying to get information from you that would give probable cause for an arrest. Thus, they may ask for more than just your name and date of birth. They may want to know where you were coming from, where you're going, and what you've been doing. Law enforcement officers speak with such authority that it might seem that your only option is to answer all of their questions. However, that's not necessarily so.

When you're stopped by the police, you have certain rights that protect you from providing any self-incriminating statements. This means that beyond giving your name and date of birth, you do not have to give the officer any other information. Anything you say during the stop may be used against you if you're later charged with a crime.

To attempt to get you to respond, the officer might lie or use intimidation tactics, but know that you cannot be penalized for refusing to speak with law enforcement officials. In Utah, you can only be charged with a crime if you fail to give or lie about your personal identifying information. Therefore, regardless of what the officer tells you, politely assert yourself and stay silent.

Throughout the interaction, remember to be respectful. Do not attempt to run from them or physically resist advancements they make. Any action that may be seen as suspicious behavior may give the officer cause to detain and/or arrest you. Such conduct may also be interpreted as resisting or obstructing, which can lead to criminal charges.

If the officer is merely questioning you, you can ask if you're free to go. If you are, you can calmly leave the scene.

If the officer arrests you, but you feel any part of the stop was unlawful, discuss the situation with a lawyer. You may have grounds to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained.

At Lokken & Putnam, P.C., our attorneys provide effective defense for those charged with crimes in Salt Lake City. We'll thoroughly review your case to build a solid defense on your behalf. Call us at (801) 829-9783 or contact us online today.