The video of a Texas woman getting placed in a chokehold and handcuffed for refusing to provide her identification ended up going viral where it was covered by a local television news station at the top of the news hour Monday night.
However, KIII-TV reporter Bill Churchwell finished the segment by providing misinformation about the law when it comes identifying yourself to police, informing viewers that citizens are required to identify themselves whether or not they have been lawfully arrested.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Texas Failure to Identify law makes it a crime for people to refuse to identify themselves if they have been lawfully arrested or if the person provides false information if they have been lawfully detained.
However, when news anchor Joe Gazin asked Churchwell about this law, the reporter stated the following:
“Well that is required whether you are a witness or involved in an incident, you are required to tell officers who you are,” Churchwell said.
Churchwell is most likely getting his information from police without bothering to look at the actual statute, which is a big mistake because we all know police are clueless about the laws they are supposed to enforce.
But that is the norm for mainstream media reporters who don’t want to risk questioning their local police department and therefore lose access to the daily information that enables them to report the news without putting in much effort.
In the video, a police officer with an unknown police department† claims that Lanessa Espinosa is a “jailhouse lawyer” because she actually knows what the law says. She pointed out that she did not have to identify herself unless she was “being charged.” At that point Corpus Christi Senior Officer‡ J.E. Lockhart comes up and demands ID and tells her that he will arrest her if she doesn’t provide ID.
The problem is that § 38.02, Texas Penal Code, does not authorize an arrest for failure to ID on a mere detention unless the person provides a fictitious name. We’ve covered that several times, here, here, here, here (also in Corpus), here, here, here, and here.
There are several things wrong with the video. First, the officer from the unknown department is choking Espinosa with an arm-bar choke hold. If you look at the video at 1:12, you’ll see the officer’s forearm cutting directly over Espinosa’s adam’s apple in the same manner that killed Eric Garner in New York. The arm-bar choke hold is almost universally viewed as deadly force, and completely inappropriate here when the crime is at best, a misdemeanor under the officer’s mistaken idea of the law.
Second, it is a false arrest. Even more so, it is an arrest because she is exercising her right not to provide identification when he knows (or should have known) that the arrest is unlawful, and that he intentionally denied her of her freedom when he knew (or should have known) that his conduct was unlawful. Folks, that the definition of Official Oppression, § 39.03, Texas Penal Code, and is a Class A misdemeanor.††
Some states have what are called “stop and identify” laws, which requires citizens to identify themselves if they have been detained, but Texas is not one of those states, which is why it only requires a citizen to identify themselves if they’ve been arrested.
There is no state where citizens are legally required to provide identification merely because a cop demands it unless the cop has detained you because he had a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime.
That doesn’t mean cops won’t demand your identification because they do it all the time, many times under intimidating threats of arrest, which is why we must remain recording in these situations.
And if a cop tells you he has the right to ask you for your identification, tell him you have the right not to provide that identification.
The Corpus Christi Police Department released the following statement about the incident, claiming that Lanessa Espinosa had informed cops she was involved in the fight, an accusation she denies.
This is how Espinosa explained it in a Facebook conversation with PINAC:
To sum up everything a fight broke out and the cop in tan came out and I stayed recording. He was on his radio calling CCPD and started asking for my I.D. I told him I was not involved with the situation just recording. He continually asked for my I.D. and I start recording. I recorded in 3 sections due to video length and time. The same officer that put me in a choke hold had also threatened to shoot me for not giving my I.D. the video that is posted is part 3. I still have part 2. As for part 1, after I was arrested for failure to I.D. I was put in a cop car. The arresting officer then went to go finish his investigation. No one else was arrested or even “detained” for the fight. I was the only one arrested. I was told the only way I would be released its if I deleted the video. So I deleted the 1st video because I was honestly scared for my safety. They released me and told me I was lucky and should be great full that I’m not going to jail.