Legal Columns

What Happens If You Pretend to Be a Cop?

In Arkansas, if you say you're a law enforcement officer when you have no legal authority to do so, what can happen to you depends on your intentions. In some cases, such impersonation will not have any consequences; in others, you could be charged with a crime, go through a criminal trial, be convicted, and face harsh penalties.

Impersonating an Officer for Fun

Let's say you're going to a costume party, and you decide to dress up as a cop. If you do that and you don't try to exert authority over anyone, you're not committing a crime. In this case, you would face no criminal consequences.

Impersonating an Officer to Exert Authority

Now, suppose you have a police officer costume lying around and some fake police equipment and insignia. You put it on, make your car appear that it's a patrol vehicle, and you start pulling people over. You may even go so far as to tell a driver that you stopped them on suspicion of DWI, search their vehicle, and administer a roadside breath test.

In this example, pretending to be a cop to defraud people and make them submit to authority you don't have is a crime. Under A.C.A. § 5-37-208, such conduct is a Class D felony. Subsection 1 of this law provides that it's unlawful for anyone to wear a law enforcement uniform or badge to make others believe the person is a police officer. It's also illegal to use a motor vehicle displaying emblems or decals to make it appear as if the vehicle belongs to a legitimate law enforcement agency.

If you are convicted of this offense, you could be imprisoned for up to 6 years and be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Not all instances of criminal impersonation are charged as felonies. In some situations, it may be considered a Class A misdemeanor.

You could be facing this level of offense if you, say that you're a law enforcement officer and you're not, and your purpose of such pretense was to do any of the following to another person:

  • Injure
  • Defraud
  • Harass, or
  • Intimidate

In Arkansas, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Facing felony or misdemeanor charges is serious, and you need serious defense to challenge the accusations. If you've been accused of a crime in Northwest Arkansas, contact Norwood & Norwood, P.A. at (479) 235-4600 today.