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Utah Criminal Attorney - Giving Name to Police

Question: Can a police officer demand my name and an explanation of my activities?

Answer: Utah criminal law provides that there are circumstances under which a person may be required to give the person's name to the officer. Failure to disclose identity as required under Utah Code 76-8-301.5 is punishable as a class B misdemeanor. More serious charges can be filed if a person gives a false name or makes a false report to a police officer.

This page is intended to provide general information regarding the question of whether a person can be required to give their name to police. But if you have been charged for a crime in Utah or if police have indicated that they want to question or interview, the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be critical. Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard provides legal services to clients throughout Utah. Contact us today to arrange for a confidential consultation.

Lawful Stop by Police in Utah

In order to trigger the requirements of Utah Code 76-8-301.5, a police officer must first meet the requirements of Utah Code 77-7-15. This section of the Utah criminal code provides that a police officer may stop or detain a person in a public place if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person has committed a crime, or is currently in the act of or attempting to committing a crime. This law then provides that the officer may then "demand" the person's name, address, and "an explanation of his actions."

Fifth Amendment Protections

Although Utah Code 77-7-15 states that a police officer may "demand . . .  an explanation of [the person's] actions," it is important to remember that the Fifth Amendment provides a Constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. While the statute allows the officer to ask for an explanation of actions, the Constitution gives the person detained the right to remain silent. Because the authority of the Constitution trumps the statutory requirements, no criminal penalty can be imposed simply because a person declines to give an explanation of his actions.

An important distinction must be made between the right to remain silent and giving false information. The Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination does not give the person detained the right to give a false explanation to the police. Thus, if the person chooses to provide an explanation of actions that is false, the person may potentially face charges that could include giving false information to a police officer, obstruction of justice, or making a false police report.

Limits to a Police Officer's Demand for a Name under Utah Law

While the Constitution provides that you do not have to explain your actions to a police officer, Utah law does still provide a misdemeanor for a person who refuses to give his or her name to a police officer. Still, there are limits on the circumstances under which a person is required to provide a name.

Utah Code 76-8-301.5 recognizes a person cannot be required to provide a name if disclosure of the name would "present a reasonable danger of self-incrimination in the commission of a crime." Further, the statute requires that the demand to provide a name must be reasonably related to the circumstances which justified the stop in the first place. An officer cannot randomly stop people on the street and demand to know their names.

Penalties for Failing to Disclose a Name in Utah

Failing to disclose identity is punishable as a class B misdemeanor under Utah law. The maximum punishment for a class B misdemeanor is 180 days in jail plus $1,900 in fines and surcharge. Probation conditions may also apply if the court suspends jail time.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerThe consequences of any criminal conviction can be serious. As an experienced Utah criminal lawyer based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard has protected his clients' rights in cases ranging from aggravated murder to DUI, and virtually everything in between.

If you are facing prosecution for a crime in Utah, a good attorney can help give you the best chance of success. Contact us today to schedule confidential consultation.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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