In Florida, giving a false name to law enforcement CAN constitute a crime. It is criminalized under Fla. Stat. 901.36. Here is the statute as it reads in full:
901.36 Prohibition against giving false name or false identification by person arrested or lawfully detained; penalties; court orders.
1. It is unlawful for a person who has been arrested or lawfully detained by a law enforcement officer to give a false name, or otherwise falsely identify himself or herself in any way, to the law enforcement officer or any county jail personnel. Except as provided in subsection (2), any person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s.775.082 or s. 775.083.
2. A person who violates subsection (1), if such violation results in another person being adversely affected by the unlawful use of his or her name or other identification, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
3.(a) In sentencing a person for violation of this section, a court may order restitution.
(b) The sentencing court may issue such orders as are necessary to correct any public record because it contains a false name or other false identification information given in violation of this section.
(c) Upon application to the court, a person adversely affected by the unlawful use of his or her name or other identification in violation of this section may obtain from the court orders necessary to correct any public record, as described in paragraph (b).
History.—s. 2, ch. 99-169.
As you see, this crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether another person was adversely affected.
There are several defenses that can apply, also depending upon the facts of the case. In Florida, case law dictates that in order to constitute a crime, the giving of a false name to a police officer must occur during an arrest or lawful detention. (Dubois v. State, Fla. 2nd DCA, 932 So.2d 298 (2006)). Therefore, if someone gives a false name to an officer during a consensual encounter, a conviction for giving false name should not stand. Also, the defense of recantation can apply. In a recantation case, the court will look to certain factors, such as the extent of the delay in retracting and correcting the false information and the correlation to the amount of harm done. Some courts have indicated that the crucial factor is the time of recantation in relation to the time of arrest.
In one case example, a juvenile recanted the false information within three blocks of where arresting officer initiated her transport to the county jail. The recantation occurred after she was arrested. The court held the defense of recantation did not apply. (M.G. v. State, Fla. 1st DCA, 989 So.2d 705 (2008)). In another case, a juvenile was in custody and in the process of being transported to the police station when he decided to recant the false information. The court held the juvenile did not recant in a timely manner. (L.J. v. State, Fla. 3d DCA, So.2d 942 (2007)).
As with most criminal arrests, all cases are different and any defenses should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
(Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.)