False impersonation occurs when an individual assumes the identity of another person in order to gain a personal benefit or cause harm to the other person. It is thus a requisite that the individual being impersonated is a real person and not a fictitious one and the person can even be deceased.
Sec 529 of the California Penal Code provides that every person who falsely personates in either his/her private or official capacity while impersonating said person performs any of the following acts:
• Becomes bail or surety for any party in any proceeding whatever before any court or officer authorized to take such bail or surety;
• Verifies, publishes, acknowledges or proves, using the impersonated identity, any written instrument with the intent that the same may be recorded, delivered or used as true;
• Performs any other act:
o If done by the person falsely impersonated might subject that individual to criminal or civil liability, debt or forfeiture;
o May cause an undue benefit to either the person doing the impersonation or to another person;
Thus it is important that clear intentional deception was committed and not merely semblance to the appearance of another individual.
Another popular venue for the commission of this crime is over the Internet. Aside from the actual impersonation, other crimes can be committed, such as cyberstalking, identity theft, petty or grand theft or other fraud crimes.
False impersonation can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor. The determination on which charge would be prosecuted is dependent upon the facts of the case and the criminal history of the accused. When convicted of the misdemeanor, the penalty imposable would be twelve (12) months in county jail and payment of fines if up to $10,000. Should the crime be charged as a felony offense, then the imposable penalty would be between sixteen (16) months and thirty six (36) months in a state penal facility and payment of the same fine.
There other false impersonation crimes in California Penal Laws, which are as follows:
• Sec 146(a) of the California Penal Code or impersonation of a public officer, such as a state investigator, inspector, deputy or clerk;
• Sec 538(d) of the California Penal Code or impersonation of a peace officer;
• Sec. 27 of the California Vehicle Code or impersonation of a California Highway Patrol Officer;
• Sec. 538(e) of the California Penal Code or impersonation of a firefighter;
• Sec 530 of the California Penal Code or falsely impersonating another person and obtaining money or other property;
• Sec 528 of the California Penal Code or marriage under false impersonation;
Depending on the facts of the arrest, impersonating an officer could alternatively or additionally be filed as a federal crime with an additional penalty of three (3) years in state penitentiary.
The crime of false impersonation is a serious matter in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.