Impersonating a Public Official Consequences

Given the significant power and trust placed in public officials, the public all over the United States respects their authority greatly. Therefore, engaging in the impersonation of a public officer with the intent to manipulate people or gain financial or other criminal advantages will have severe repercussions.

Learn what it’s like to impersonate public officials in Texas. See how this not only affects the person doing it but also messes with people’s trust in real government workers. As we talk about the laws, you’ll see that getting caught has bigger consequences than just going to court; it messes up how things work in society.

What is Considered Impersonating a Public Official?

Impersonating a public servant in Texas means pretending to be a cop, government official, or someone important in charge, even if you’re not. The goal is to make others believe you have authority or privileges that you actually don’t possess. This may be accomplished by:

  • Using a fake or stolen badge
  • showing a fake police badge;
  • putting on a police uniform, like the ones real cops wear;
  • Using red and blue flashing lights on your car that look like police lights;
  • leading somebody to think you’re a public servant when you’re not.

Impersonating a specific police officer, especially using their name, can result in an additional charge of identity theft. Illegal possession of a firearm can also increase the penalties for falsely pretending to be a police officer.

A Brief Look at Texas Law

As per the existing law, the act of impersonating a public official is defined in Texas Penal Code Section §37.11.

a) A person commits a crime if they:

(1) pretend to be a public servant with the intent of inducing another to submit someone’s pretended official authority or trust their fake official actions; or

(2) intentionally acts like a public servant or takes on the role of a public office, like a judge or a court, even though they don’t have the legal right to do so.

Breaking the law in Texas can lead to serious consequences. It messes with people’s trust in real government workers and can cause confusion or even put folks in risky situations. So, it’s best to steer clear of pretending to be a public servant to avoid serious legal consequences.

Penalties for Impersonating a Public Officials

A conviction for impersonating a public official is a Third-degree felony under Texas Penal Code 37.11 (b) with a maximum fine of $10,000 and a prison sentence of two to ten years under Texas state law.

As well as engaging in impersonation or claiming to be a private investigator is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, carrying a potential penalty of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.

Can you get Probation for Pretending to be a Public Servant?

Probation is a possibility for those convicted of impersonating a public servant in Texas, especially for first-time offenders or in cases where the offense isn’t severe.

However, eligibility for probation depends on various factors, including the specific circumstances of the case, criminal history, and the discretion of the court. In some instances, probation might be granted instead of or alongside imprisonment, typically under strict conditions and supervision set by the court.

Types of Public Official: Who Can You Not Impersonate? 

A public servant is defined by Texas law as someone who is elected, selected, appointed, or employed as a public servant. In addition, a public servants who you cannot impersonate includes:

  • Police Officer
  • Grand Juror or Juror
  • Judge and court
  • Attorney at Law or Notary public forming a government function
  • International or Local government worker and agent
  • Candidate for Public Office
  • Private Investigator

Tips to Clear of Charges for Impersonating a Public Servant.

  1. Don’t Misrepresent Yourself:
    Avoid pretending to be a government official, cop, or any public servant if you’re not. Additionally, refrain from wearing uniforms, using badges, or displaying credentials that might give the impression of holding an official position.
  2. Do Not Misuse Official Insignia or Equipment:
    Don’t have or use things like badges, IDs, or equipment linked to public servants unless you’re authorized to do so.
  3. Avoid Pretending for Personal Gain:
    Avoid pretending to be a government worker to get personal benefits or special treatment. Additionally, this encompasses any deceptive actions that could lead others to believe you hold an official government role.
  4. Avoid False Claims of Authority:
    Do not assert authority or demand compliance as if you were a public servant. Avoid using phrases or actions that imply you have the power or authority of a government official.
  5. Steer Clear of Misleading Representations:
    Avoid doing or saying things that could give people the impression that you possess governmental authority or hold official positions.
  6. Refrain from Deceptive Actions:
    Avoid engaging in activities that might mislead others into believing you have an official role or capacity. Furthermore, this includes misleading communications, behaviors, or actions that might lead someone to believe you are a public servant.

Possible Legal Defense Against Charges

Different circumstances can lead to different legal defenses. In Texas, some possible defenses against impersonating a public servant charges are:

Lack of Intent: Offering proof that there was no intentional attempt to trick or act like a public servant. Moreover, this might include demonstrating that actions or messages weren’t meant to falsely show an official position or authority.

Mistaken Identity: Arguing that there was confusion or mistaken identity, and the accused did not purposefully impersonate a public servant.

Freedom of Expression: These actions are safeguarded by the First Amendment as a form of speech, particularly when there is no purpose to cause harm or deceive. These actions are protected by the freedom of speech, as long as there’s no intent to harm or deceive.

Official Authorization: Providing evidence that the accused had legitimate authorization or consent to wear certain uniforms or use specific insignia.

No Harm Done: Arguing that the impersonation did not result in any harm, threat, or disruption to public order.

In addition, consulting a lawyer to find the best defense strategy for your case is important, considering the specific details.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

If you’re accused of pretending to be a public servant in Texas, it’s a big deal with serious consequences. It’s important to understand the legal issues to avoid getting into more trouble.

Getting an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of legal defense is crucial. Furthermore, they can help you understand complicated legal matters, create a strong defense plan, and ensure your rights are protected. In addition, a skilled lawyer can work to get the best outcome and reduce the tough punishments for pretending to be a public servant in Texas.

Our team of legal experts in criminal defense is here to assist you in figuring out what you can do legally, guiding you through the tricky legal system, and trying to make sure a conviction doesn’t mess up your life too much. They can talk with the prosecutors to maybe get you lighter charges or penalties, making sure your rights are looked after during the whole legal thing.