Penal Code 148.9 PC makes it a crime to represent a false identity to any California police or peace officer for the purpose of
- evading the process of the court, OR
- avoiding proper identification by the officer.
This section applies not just to giving the police a fake or fictitious name, but also supplying a false date of birth or any other data that would support a false identity. As the courts have said:
"To identify" is to "establish the identity of," identity being not merely a name, but "[t]he collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known." (American Heritage Dict. (2d college ed.1991) p. 639.) "Fictitious" has been defined to mean "imaginary" and "[a]dopted or assumed in order to deceive." ( Id. at p. 500.) A date of birth is one of the core characteristics that comprise a person's identity, and the identification of oneself as a fictitious person under section 148.9(a) may be accomplished by a fictitious birth date as well as by a fictitious name.1
Distinguishing False Impersonation
California false impersonation law (Penal Code 529) makes it a crime to impersonate someone else in order to harm that person, or to gain a benefit.
Unlike Penal Code 148.9, false impersonation laws only apply if you try to assume the identity of another actual person. That person must be alive and be a real person. Whereas Penal Code 148.9 can be charged even if you provide the identifying information of a totally fictitious person.
Moreover, the crime of false impersonation requires that you commit some additional act beyond merely identifying yourself as the other person. This could include signing a traffic citation or submitting to fingerprints as the other person. On the other hand, the crime of false identification to a police officer is complete the moment you verbally provide the false identity.
Penalties for Giving False Identification to a
Penal Code 148.9 is a misdemeanor in California law. As a misdemeanor, a conviction carries up to six months of county jail time.
Although the maximum sentence is 6 months in jail, a judge has discretion to impose much less jail time, and even no jail time. The ultimate sentence depends on the defendant's prior criminal record, and the circumstances surrounding the offense.
We discussed false impersonation (Penal Code 529). But several other crimes often get charged in connection with Penal Code 148.9.
Penal Code 148 (a) (1) makes it a crime willfully to resist, obstruct or delay any peace officer in the discharge of his duties. Although Penal Code 148 is most frequently charged as "resisting arrest," courts have ruled that giving false identification to a police officer obstructs and delays the officer, making section 148 applicable. 2
Likewise, Vehicle Code 31 VC makes it a crime to give any information to a peace officer that you know to be false. This would include a false name, a fake ID card or a fictitious vehicle registration. Vehicle Code 31 VC is broader than Penal Code 148.9 in that it applies to any false information, not just a false identification.
Contact Us for Help...
If you've been charged with making a false report of a crime, don't despair. It may be possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed.
Call us at Shouse Law Group and let's see what we can do to help. We have local offices throughout California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Orange County, Long Beach, San Jose, Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area.
1 In re Ivan J. (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 27, 30.
2 People v. Christopher (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 418.