Dealing with police officers can be stressful. Recent instances of police brutality have led to a lack of public respect for them, however, as law-abiding citizens, we have to cooperate with their requests. One of the most common requests they will make is to identify yourself. If approached by a police officer or other officer of the peace, one of the first things they will do is ask you for personal identifiers like your name and some form of ID. Failing to produce this information can be considered resisting arrest, a misdemeanor crime. Falsely representing yourself to a police officer, by providing false identifying information, is a related but more severe crime. Falsely representing yourself means leading the officer to believe, by providing false identifying information and/or IDs, that you are someone else either real or fictitious. This is not just giving them a stolen ID or a fake name, but could include providing a false date of birth or address. This can be a police officer or a peace officer. Peace officers are public employees and officials whose job relates to the safety and peace of the public through law enforcement, emergency care or other form of public protection. Examples of peace officers include law enforcement officers like cops, sheriffs, corrections officers and marshals; regulatory officials like those with natural resources departments or control boards and other public employees like firemen, EMTs, DMV workers, investigators and medical professionals providing emergency medical care. The intent of the false identification can be either to lead the officer to believe you are someone eels in order to put that person at a disadvantage or to avoid being caught yourself. A charge of falsely representing yourself to a police or peace officer is punishable by up to six months in jail with a fine of up to $1,000, or both. However, your prior criminal record, if any, can affect this standard sentencing. As well, aggravating circumstances like the severity of the consequences of your falsely identifying yourself to a police or peace officer, or the position of the officer you lied to, can lead to increased jail time and fines. This is a complex charge that involves a few crucial components that will be addressed in court. In order to convict you, the prosecution must prove several things. First, they must prove you had reason to believe the officer was a police or peace officer at the time you falsely representing yourself. Not all peace officers wear easily identifiable attire or identification and you could make a mistake if you did not trust they were an official and so provided false identifying information. That police or peace officer must have also been engage din his or her job duties and you must have provided the false information in order to avoid being correctly identified or to avoid any legal consequences of your actions. They must also prove that the identifying information you provided was indeed false and that you knew it was false at the time you provided it. In most cases, this will be self-evident. However, those with certain mental illnesses may in fact believe they are someone else and so can provide false personal identifiers unknowingly. A similar charge is providing false information to a police or peace office. This covers not just personal identifying information like names and birth dates, but information about your license, vehicle ownership and registration or any other information they ask for and you know is false. This has to occur when they are performing the duties of their job and again, the prosecution must prove that you knew that he or she was a police or peace officer engaged in their job duties. They also must prove that you provided this false information willfully and knowingly. If the registration in the car you were driving was fake, but you were not aware because it was someone else's car, you cannot be charged with providing false information to a peace officer. False impersonation is another separate but related charge. This covers a very broad range of offenses ranging from credit card fraud to identify stealing. You have a duty to provide police and peace officers with truthful information, just as you would have a duty to testify truthfully under penalty of perjury. False identification may seem like an easy way to avoid getting caught or possibly a pay back against someone, but it is an extremely serious charge resulting in harsh consequences. It may be worth it to you to fight the charge, if you feel you have a good defense, but make sure you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before you appear in court. A complex and serious charge like this takes a thorough knowledge of the criminal prosecution process and laws on false identification.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare areas and are facing charges of false representation to a police officer? The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for expert criminal defense and experience dealing with false representation cases. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.