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Impersonating an Officer
PC 538d(a) Law & Defense
Information on the crime of impersonating an officer is found at California penal code section 538d. In short, impersonating an officer is the act of portraying oneself as a peace officer in order to commit crimes that he or she would not otherwise be able to commit.
PC 538d(a) Law
PC 538d(a) Impersonating an officer with uniform: Any person, other than a person who is given the authority of a peace officer by law, who willfully wears an officer's uniform, insignia, emblem, 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 impersonating an officer (Abbrev.).
PC 538d(b)(1) Falsely using a police badge: Any person, other than the one who by law is given the authority of a peace officer, who willfully wears, exhibits, or uses the badge 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 impersonating an officer by use of a police badge (Abbrev.).
PC 538d(b)(2) Fake police badge used to commit fraud: Any person who willfully wears or uses any false police badge which purports to be an authorized police badge, in order deecive another person or to commit fraud, is guilty of ueing a fake police badge (Abbrev.).
In addition to criminal charges for impersonating an officer by uniform or use of a badge (real or false), a person who sells a police uniform or badge to another person, who knows that the other person is not authorized to have these items, may also be charged under PC 538d.
PC 538d Penalties
Sentence: PC 538d crimes are classified as misdemeanors. If found guilty of impersonating an officer, or using a real or fake peace officer badge to defraud, the defendant could face up to one year in the county jail.
Probation: A probation sentence may be available in some impersonating an officer type crimes (depending on the facts of the case and other circumstances). A probation sentence is a period of supervision (as opposed to an actual jail sentence). Probation sentences may include some conditions of probation including a condition that the defendant perform some type of community service, house arrest, or work release.
Note: Work release is a type of manual labor that usually includes collecting trash from highways or around jails. There is a non physical type of work release that is allowed for defendant's that otherwise cannot take advantage of a work release sentence due to physical disability (advanced age, physical impairment, etc.).
Good Behavior Credit: If the defendant is found guilty of impersonating an officer and ordered to serve a jail sentence or work release sentence, then the defendant may have that sentenced reduced by up to 50% for good behavior while serving that sentence (day for day credit) [PC 4019]
Bail: The scheduled bail for PC 538d(a) is $5,000 in San Bernardino County (2020). This amount may be raised or lowered at the defendant's first court appearance (arraignment) based on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the circumstances of the case.
In addition to any jail sentence, if found guilty of impersonating an officer, the defendant could face other punishments, including: fines and fees, restitution to victims, deportation from the United States (non US citizens), loss of a professional or occupational license, criminal protective orders, and more.
PC 538d Defense
The is a specific defense to PC 538d crimes carved out in law. Any impersonation of an officer in a movie, film, theater, etc. may be allowed with prior permission, and limited in scope, from the legal authority impersonated.
Other defense may include: insufficient evidence to prove an intent to defraud (Halloween costume), mistake of fact, illegal search and seizure for uniform or badge allegedly used by the defendant, jury nullification, and more.
If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of impersonating an officer, or PC 538d(a), contact out criminal lawyers for a free consultation. Call today!
Quick Reference Sheet
Crime: Impersonating an Officer
Code: PC 538d(a)
Wobbler: No. PC 538d(a) is not a wobbler. This means that PC 538d(a) is only charged as a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: PC 538d(a) jail sentence up to 180 days.
Probation: Probation may be available in PC 538d(a) cases (assuming that other crimes or enhancements that might bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
Strike: PC 538d(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
Bail: $5,000 (San Bernardino County)
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