What does Impersonating a Police Officer Mean?
It’s telling someone you’re a cop when you are not a cop. Lying about being a law enforcement officer is False Personation, according to Florida Statute 843.08. The law covers a lot of official positions in addition to police officer, including:
- Deputy sheriff
- Florida Highway Patrol Officer
- Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer
- Department of Environmental Protection Officer
- Fire or Arson investigator
- Department of Corrections Officer
- State Attorney
- FDLE Employee
- Federal Law Enforcement Officer
What is the Penalty for Impersonating a Police Officer in Florida?
At a minimum, False Personation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, if you impersonate an officer while committing another crime, it’s a second-degree felony that comes with a possible 15-year prison term and a
$10,000 fine. If someone is injured or killed while you are impersonating an officer during the commission of a crime, it’s a first-degree felony with a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Florida Statute 633.122 also covers the crime of Impersonating a Firefighter. The penalty in the firefighter statute differs slightly. While impersonating a law enforcement officer in the commission of another crime is a second-degree felony, impersonating a firefighter while committing another crime is a first-degree felony.
Related Charges Impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer
Prosecutors sometimes bring other charges relating to False Personation. They include violations of Florida Statute 316.2397, which restricts the use of red, red and white, or blue lights to official vehicles. People who impersonate law enforcement officers often do so by affixing flashing red or blue lights on their dashboards to pull over unsuspecting drivers.
For example, in a recent case before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a Miami man appealed his conviction for having a vehicle with prohibited lights and for falsely personating a police officer during the commission of a felony.
The case illustrates the circumstances under which prosecutors can apply multiple charges arising from one criminal episode – and the hit or miss results.
The defendant bought some blue and red lights for his dashboard so he could have some fun pulling his friends over. The young man spotted someone he recognized (a friend of a friend) and pulled the person over. He identified himself as a police officer and confiscated a handgun that was in the glove compartment of the victim’s car.
Falsely Personating a Police Officer During the Commission of a Felony
Prosecutors labeled the confiscation of the gun grand theft of a firearm and threw in a charge of armed burglary. The additional charges upgraded the false personation violation to a second-degree felony because it occurred during the commission of another crime. But while the jury acquitted the man of grand theft and armed burglary, they still convicted him of falsely personating a police officer during the commission of a felony.
Since the defendant was found not guilty of the underlying felony, the judge vacated the conviction on the enhanced charges. He then convicted and sentenced the defendant on the lesser charge. (Even though the charge comes with a five-year sentence, the court sentenced him to ten years in prison because he was a repeat offender. He also received 364 days for having blue and red police lights on his car.)
His lawyers argued on appeal that the judge had no right to convict him on the lesser charge since he hadn’t given that option to the jury. But the District Court let the conviction stand.
Defense Against Falsely Personating a Police Officer
A smart and aggressive criminal defense attorney may be able to defend against these charges in several ways. For example, under certain circumstances, someone claiming to be “an officer” may avoid charges if they have valid security officer certifications. Whatever the situation, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly investigate your case and challenge the prosecution at every step.
If the police violated arrest procedures or the state’s attorney doesn’t properly prosecute the case, your lawyer may be able to get charges reduced or even dismissed. If the case winds up going to trial, your attorney will fight hard for the best possible outcome in your case. If you face criminal charges in Florida, contact the Rivas Law Firm at 407-644-2466 for a free consultation.