In a bizarre case in which a video has gone viral, both Marlin Gipson AND the Harris County Constable may have BOTH violated nearly identical laws.
CBS News reported that a police supervisor is defending the actions of a Harris County Constable in a video by Marlin Gipson which has gone viral. In the video, which Gipson recorded, the situation become tense and the officer demands the young man prepare for arrest. He refused and left the scene only to later become the focus of a raid at his home which left him injured. In viewing the video, I had a few questions, the biggest question of which is, “Who was acting lawfully?”
What Does the Law in Texas Say About Showing ID?
Set aside for a moment what is not known and let us focus on what is known. In the video, the officer says he stopped Gipson because he was going “door-to-door.” That is fine, the officer is doing his job. He then asks for an ID. Gipson states he does not have it on him. Problem?
No. Texas Penal Code – PENAL § 38.02. states that a person need only give their name, address, and date of birth IF they are under arrest or the officer believes they have committed a crime. No ID required, but Gipson was required to self-identify, which he did…sort of…or was he?
The U.S. Supreme Court has seen numerous cases involving the requirement to produce IDs on request. No single case has settled this issue and many scholars expect one to enter the SCOTUS realm one day soon. So…
What About the Peace Officer’s ID?
Gipson then asks the Harris County Constable for an ID…a business card or something. He even suggests the officer could write his name down for him. At this point, the officer becomes indignant and takes out his handcuffs. What did Gipson do wrong? What law did he violate?
At this point, we have no indication that Marlin Gipson has committed any crime. Had he been in violation of solicitation laws, the officer should have stated so immediately. He did not, so we can assume that he was not guilty of such a misdemeanor.
However, as seen in the video, the Harris County Constable WAS in violation of the law. This is clear and without question.
Violation of Texas Code Title 6, Subtitle A, Section 614.122 by Harris County Constable?
Texas Code Title 6, Subtitle A, Section 614.122 states that peace officers are to be provided with ID cards which include their name, organization represented, and a 24-hour phone number citizens can call to verify their identity. When this law was passed in 2007, one police supervisor stated,
“If a person wants to see that ID and challenge that information, they are free to do that. We are not going to take offense.”
Of course, that was a police officer in the Panhandle of Texas, which is about 600 miles and a world away from Harris County (Houston). Unable to find the initiating officer’s name in any of the current media reports, Criminal Justice Law International reached out to the Harris County Constable’s Office.
According to the Media Relations Officer J.C. Mosier, the initiating officer was G. Cates. The reason he stopped Gipson was because there had been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. Cates became suspicious by the young mans attitude during the conversation and when Gipson left the scene, he checked the information given.
In the video, we hear Gipson give his name as Marvin, not Marlin. He also gives the wrong date-of-birth. This was enough to warrant a follow-up at his home.
But what of the failure of Officer Cates to give his name and ID?
Officer Mosier stated that in 50 years as a peace officer he had never had anyone ask for his ID and he was unaware of the specifics of the law — it is just not an issue which arises often enough. This makes sense.
In searching the law, although it states that police officers are to carry ID, the publisher of this blog was unable to locate a law stating that police were required to show it. However, because the law states the ID have “a phone number operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week that a person may call to verify the validity of the identification card” (B. 9.) it stands to reason that the public would have a right to that information.
Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right
In the case of Marlin Gipson and Officer Cates, both were wrong. Gipson was trying to make a living and was likely not engaging in anything wrongful when he was stopped by Cates. Cates was simply doing his job and checking up on the young man. Both escalated the situation by their attitudes. Officer Cates MAY have broken the law…Gipson MAY have as well.
This will be one for the courts. Given that this case involves IDs on the part of both persons involved, it could even end up in the Supreme Court.
Judge for yourself. Watch the video below.