Brown v. Texas

PETITIONER: Zackary C. Brown
LOCATION: Magoffin Avenue, El Paso

DOCKET NO.: 77-6673
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State trial court

CITATION: 443 US 47 (1979)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1979
GRANTED: Oct 16, 1978

Raymond C. Caballero - for appellant
Renea Hicks - for appellee, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court

Facts of the case

On December 9, 1977, El Paso Police Officers Venegas and Sotelo were cruising in a patrol car. At 12:45 p.m., they observed Zackary C. Brown and another man leaving an alley in opposite directions. The alley was in an area known for a high incidence of drug traffic. The officers believed the situation was suspicious and stopped Brown for questioning. They asked Brown to identify himself, and he refused and asserted that they had no cause to stop him. When the officers frisked him, they did not find any drugs or other suspicious material on Brown. He was arrested for violation of a Texas statute that made it illegal for a person to refuse to identify himself when a police officer lawfully requests it. Brown was taken to the county jail, where he did identify himself, and was charged with the violation.

Brown was convicted in municipal court and fined. He then exercised his right to a trial in the county court and moved for dismissal on the grounds that the Texas statue was unconstitutional under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The motion was denied and he was convicted.


When the police detain someone because that person refused to identify himself, does it constitute a seizure subject to the restrictions of the Fourth Amendment?

Media for Brown v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 21, 1979 in Brown v. Texas

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Brown against Texas.

We'll wait just a moment Mr. Caballero.

Raymond C. Caballero:

Yes, Your Honor.

Warren E. Burger:

We need six to proceed.

Raymond C. Caballero:

I don't know the quorom was.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Caballero, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready now.

Raymond C. Caballero:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Brown versus Texas is a direct appeal from the county court at law, number 2 for El Paso County, Texas.

From a misdemeanor conviction for the failure to identify himself by appellant and to the report of his name and address.

The facts are that on December 9, 1977 at approximately noon, two uniformed El Paso police patrolman in the squad car looked down an alley and noticed appellant and another individual who were apparently only a couple of feet apart walking in opposite directions.

The officer could not tell if the individuals had met or had spoken.

Both men were black.

No other activity was noticed.

There was no report of suspicious or criminal activity.

The officer stated that they decided to stop appellant to ask him his name and that that was the sole purpose for the stop.

The appellant was stopped and the officers did ask him for his name and also for the reason for his presence in the alley.

Appellant protested the stop stating that the officer had neither right nor reason to detain him.

He did not resist the arrest or stop.

Brown was padded down then and no weapons, drugs or any of the contraband were found on his person.

But he was placed under arrest for the failure to identify himself.

The other individual in the alley was never stopped or questioned.

Now on the way to jail, appellant gave the officers his name but he was still booked for the offense the officers stating within his viewpoint the offense was complete at that point.

He was later on found guilty in an on-jury trial and was fined 500 -- $45.00.

Now, the provision in question does not carry any term, jail term or imprisonment simply provides for a maximum penalty of a $200.00 fine.

The provision is Section 3802 of the Texas Penal Code which makes it a misdemeanor to refuse to give a report of one's name and address to a peace officer who has lawfully stopped one and requested that information.

This case is significant and different from DeFillippo that you've just heard in the following respects.

The Detroit ordinance at least attempts to put in some sort of a Terry Standard that there must be suspicious conduct or criminal conduct afoot which would allow a police officer to investigate further and ask for one's name.

The Texas statute does not have any such requirement.

Byron R. White:

Oh, it has the word awful.

Raymond C. Caballero:

That's correct, Your Honor.