Obstructing Identification Crime in Illinois


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Obstructing identification occurs when a person refuses to identify himself or herself to a law enforcement officer when asked. Failing to provide identification can result in a criminal charge and serious consequences.

Obstructing Identification

When a law enforcement officer performs a traffic stop on an individual because the individual violated a traffic law or otherwise detains a person because he or she suspects the person committed a crime, the law enforcement officer is within his or her rights and authority to ask the individual about his or her identity. If the individual responds by giving a false name, the law enforcement officer can arrest the suspect for the crime of obstructing identification. This crime can also be committed when the individual lies about other confidential and identifying information, such as a date of birth, address or driverís license number. Law enforcement may also ask a passenger in a vehicle for his or her identification. If the passenger refuses or lies about it, he or she may be charged for giving a false name.

Reasons Defendants Give a False Name

Many charges for obstruction of identification arise because of traffic stops when the driver does not have a valid driverís license or has a suspended or revoked license. Rather than giving his or her name which will yield these results when the law enforcement officer checks on the information, he or she may give a name of a friend, family member or a fictitious person. In other situations, the driver may give false information because he or she has a warrant out for his or her arrest and may want to avoid


Historical Context

Before the most recent passage of the obstructing identification law, giving false identification was considered obstruction of justice and a Class 4 felony. However, the being charged with a felony would often lead to problems. Often, the person on the receiving end of this charge had no prior criminal history. He or she may have given a false name out of confusion, fear or ignorance of the potential ramification. The crime was punishable by one to three years in prison and was not able to be sealed. Prosecutors would sometimes reduce the charge to a misdemeanor offense by considering it attempted obstruction of justice. The defendant was sometimes able to secure a sentence of supervision and avoid a serious conviction and criminal record. However, prosecutors could also use the charge as leverage to get the defendant to admit to another crime that carried a lesser sentence than the obstruction conviction.

Change in Law

State lawmakers changed the law in 2010 so that the offense was not as serious. Rather than being classified as a felony offense, the act of giving a false name is now considered a Class A misdemeanor. However, the updated law only applies in three situations. The first is if there is a lawful arrest and the defendant gives a false name. The second situation is if the defendant is lawfully detained, including during a valid traffic stop. The third situation is if a witness is being questioned about a crime. In these situations, the events leading up to the arrest had to be lawful. If the suspect can establish that the law enforcement officer violated the defendantís fourth amendment rights because they lacked probable cause or the other necessary standard, the charge can be dismissed in its entirety.

Potential Penalties

The crime of obstructing identification can result in a maximum penalty of one year in jail, coupled with a fine of $2,500. However, the defendant may be able to receive supervision. A person who has supervision can still wind up with a criminal record.

Problems with Witness Incrimination

The Illinois law regarding obstructing identification can potentially lead to problems because no other laws require a witness to cooperate with law enforcement. However, the obstructing identification crime requires the witness to give out his or her actual name. A witness who does not cooperate can wind up being charged with obstructing identification. If the witness provides false information, he or she can be on the receiving end of a criminal charge.

Contact an Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance with Obstructing Identification

If you are charged with obstructing identification, it is important to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He or she can evaluate the weight of the evidence against you to determine your possible legal defenses. He or she may also be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor on your behalf or possibly move to dismiss your charges, depending on the circumstances involved in your case.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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