A 24-year-old Vista man has been arrested for falsely identifying himself as a San Diego sheriff’s deputy. According to reports, the man visited several San Diego businesses and reported that he was an undercover officer. Employees of several local restaurants witnessed the man interacting with area youth, became concerned, and called police to report the suspicious activity.
Police investigated the claims and determined that the man was falsely identifying himself as an officer of the law. The investigation also uncovered the fact that the man was using his alleged authority to detain young men and confiscate their skateboards. The man was located and arrested near the Wave Waterpark earlier this month. Searches of the man and his home uncovered fake sheriff’s department business cards, sheriff’s deputy’s uniform, and badges.
Impersonating a Peace Officer
In California, it is a crime to impersonate a police officer or other officer of the law. Specifically, Penal Code 538d PC explains that “any other person other than one who by law is given the authority of a peace officer, who willfully wears, exhibits, or uses the authorized uniform, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing, of a peace officer, with the intent of fraudulently impersonating a peace officer, or of fraudulently inducing the belief that he or she is a peace officer” is guilty of the crime of impersonation.
In simpler terms, it is a crime to intentionally and fraudulently attempt to make others believe that you are an officer of the law. This can be accomplished by wearing a uniform, creating a fake badge, passing off a genuine badge that is not your own, or even creating business cards to support your fraudulent claim.
What is a Peace Officer?
Penal Code 538d PC explicitly states that it is a crime to impersonate a peace officer. In California, peace officers can include anyone who “meets all standards imposed by law on a peace officer, including:
- Deputy sheriffs
- Police officers
- Officers of consolidated public safety agencies
- Court marshals or deputies
- Port police officers
- Port wardens
- San Diego Unified Port District Harbor police
- Public safety agents, and more.
Generally speaking, anyone who has the lawful authority of a peace officer, or who is appointed by a chief or director of a public safety agency, will be classified as a peace officer.
Penalty for Impersonating a Peace Officer
Impersonating a peace officer in violation of California state law is a misdemeanor offense. The penalty will depend on the circumstance of each specific case.
Willfully wearing/exhibiting/using a peace officer’s badge to fraudulently induce others to believe you are a peace officer:
- Maximum of 12 months in a San Diego County jail; and/or
- $2,000 in fines.
Willfully wearing/exhibiting/using a falsified badge or card to induce others to believe you are a peace officer:
- Maximum of six months in a San Diego County jail; and/or
- $2,000 in fines
Making or selling fraudulent peace officer badges, insignias, or cards:
- Maximum of six months in a San Diego County jail; and
- $15,000 in fines.
Selling a law enforcement uniform to someone other than an employee of the agency:
- $1,000 in fines.
If you are convicted for impersonating a peace officer you will be burdened with a criminal record. This record will have the ability to affect every aspect of your life. You will find that it is difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, and even secure a loan.
Defending False Impersonation Charges in San Diego
Have you been accused of falsely impersonating a peace officer in San Diego? It’s important to speak with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean that you will be charged or convicted. You have the right to defend yourself, and the San Diego Criminal Law Center can help.
As your attorneys, we will thoroughly investigate your supposed crime and determine the best legal strategy for your defense. Remember, the state cannot convict you of a crime unless it can show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Any evidence that can cast doubt on the prosecution’s case can be helpful in minimizing the consequences of your arrest.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team. We will review your case, explain your legal rights, and outline the best arguments for your defense. The state will begin to build its case against you immediately, so do not hesitate to call us for help now.