The Consequences for Impersonating Someone Else
Everyone finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation at some point, and in order to avoid embarrassment or punishment, may at least ponder pretending to be someone else. While it may seem harmless to impersonate another person, the law does not always look so kindly on this type of behavior. In fact, depending upon the circumstances of the impersonation, criminal charges may be filed for pretending to be anyone, not just a public figure or member of law enforcement.
A criminal defense attorney should be the first phone call a person makes as soon as there is a possibility of criminal charges to protect his/her rights, and to immediately begin to mitigate the fallout of any investigation. Impersonating public officials, especially police officers, is not taken lightly and can lead to criminal charges, even if no harm is caused.
Police are currently looking for a man who allegedly posed as law enforcement so he could pull a woman over on a highway in a southeast L.A. County suburb, and use the opportunity to sexually assault her. A discussion of the crimes related to impersonating a police officer, as well as for impersonating someone else in a private or public capacity, will follow below.
Impersonating a Police Officer
To be criminally liable for impersonating an officer, causing harm to another or deriving some benefit is not required. Instead, a person can be found guilty of this offense if he/she:
- willfully wears or presents law enforcement insignia, uniforms, emblems, labels and the like;
- for the purpose of fraudulently inducing another to believe he/she is a police officer or fraudulently intending to impersonate a police officer.
Note that wearing a police uniform as part of a Halloween costume or for a part in a play would not constitute a crime since the intent is not to fraudulently convince another person he/she was a police officer. This is a misdemeanor offense, and the potential sentences are probation, six months in county jail, and/or a $1,000 fine.
However, if a badge was used to induce the false perception, either real or fake, the sentences can increase to one year in county jail, and a $2,000 fine. Further, selling or transferring uniforms or badges that purport to identify the wearer as law enforcement is also illegal and brings potential jail time and substantial fines up to $15,000.
Impersonating Another Person
In addition to impersonating a police officer, it is also a crime to impersonate another person if harm is caused. False impersonation occurs when someone represents him/herself as another person to deceive others. However, the key element of this offense in most cases is whether an additional act was performed, beyond the deceitful misrepresentation, that:
- creates a legal or financial liability for the person being impersonated; or
- benefits the impersonator.
False impersonation is a wobbler offense in California, and a prosecutor’s decision as to whether the charge will be a misdemeanor or felony rests on the circumstances of the case, and the accused’s criminal history. As a misdemeanor offense, a conviction brings the potential for summary probation, one year in county jail and $10,000 in fines, while a felony conviction brings up to three years in jail, $10,000 in fines and/or formal probation. Further, anyone convicted of the felony charge of false impersonation is prohibited from owning firearms.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Incidents that start out as jokes or harmless acts can quickly turn serious if misinterpreted by police. Do not take a chance with the rest of your life. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case. The Los Angeles law firm Manshoory Law Group, APC is dedicated to getting their clients the best possible results and is available to evaluate your situation. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us today for a free consultation.