Saturday, October 8, 2011

IMPERSONATING PUBLIC OFFICIALS: BIG TROUBLE

Pretending to be someone you are not may bring you applause on stage and screen, but in real life, impersonation can be a serious criminal offense.

Illinois prohibits impersonating a police officer, firefighter, emergency management worker, attorney, veteran, parent/legal guardian or airplane pilot. The State takes these offenses so seriously that some laws were toughened in 2006 with unanimous House legislative approval in response to a Chicago Sun-Times series reporting that more than 1,000 police impersonations had taken place in Illinois within a three year period.

In Illinois, falsely and knowingly impersonating a peace officer is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Besides police, a peace officer includes U.S. Marshals, Internal Revenue Service, postal service, drug enforcement and immigration employees. If you were using a vehicle with flashing or oscillating lights, the charge is upgraded to a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years and a $25,000 fine. If you were carrying a deadly weapon, the charge is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years and a $25,000 fine. If you were engaged in a felony, you could be charged with Aggravated False Personation of a Peace Officer, a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, depending on the nature of the crime. The impersonation charge would be in addition to any charges brought for the underlying felony.

Even duplicating a law officer’s badge is illegal. You can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year and $2,500 for making, selling or distributing false law enforcement badges, unless they are used for a memento or collection, exhibition, decoration or dramatic purpose such as for a play.

Impersonating a firefighter is also a Class 4 felony, upgraded to a Class 3 if you were carrying a deadly weapon and to a Class 2 for Aggravated Personation if you were committing a felony at the time.

Impersonating an emergency management or American Red Cross worker is a Class 4 felony, unless you were engaged in a felony, in which case it is Aggravated Personation and a Class 3 felony.

Anyone who pretends to be a pilot, airline employee or a contractor to gain access to restricted areas of the airport can be charged with a Class 4 felony. Impersonating an attorney is also a Class 4, while falsely presenting yourself as a parent or legal guardian to a public or school official is a Class A Misdemeanor.

If you were thinking that pretending you are a veteran will help you get a job, you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

If you are charged with impersonation, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately for help. Do not discuss your case with the police or anyone else. Any statements you make can be used against you and may complicate your defense. Remember, the state must prove you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal law attorney can review your situation for weaknesses in the state’s case and help devise the best possible strategy for your defense.
If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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