Halloween is just a few weeks away, which means you might be invited to a party or two. You go to your local Halloween store to find the perfect costume and set your sights on a cop uniform. As you head home with your new outfit, you may start to wonder if wearing it could result in charges for impersonating a police officer.
Although California Penal Code 538d PC prohibits people from wearing the badge or uniform of a law enforcement official, it’s the intent for doing so that makes such action a criminal offense. Dressing up as a cop for Halloween is not against the law.
What Is Impersonating an Officer?
Under California law, you could be charged with false personation and cheats, if you are not legally authorized to wear or use an item designated for police officers but do so regardless.
You could commit impersonating an officer for wearing or using any of the following:
What Makes this Illegal?
Doesn’t dressing up as a police officer constitute “wearing or using” the items mentioned earlier? Typically, a cop costume includes things such as a badge and uniform, but generally, you’re wearing it to go to a party and hang out, not to make people believe you’re really a cop.
What makes donning an officer’s uniform or badge a crime is your intent behind it. The law prohibits you from going around and acting like you’re a law enforcement official. If you intend to fraudulently impersonate an officer or make someone think you are one, you could be charged.
Going to a costume party for the purposes of enjoying yourself is fine. Dressing up as a cop to pull people over or “stop crime” is illegal. For instance, earlier this year, Northern California law enforcement arrested a man who was driving in a mock Chinese People’s Armed Police car and tried to pull over an off-duty cop.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Impersonating an Officer?
Wearing or using a uniform, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing is a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you could be put in jail for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000.
If you wear a police officer’s badge, the penalties increase to up to 1 year of jail time and up to $2,000 in fines.
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