Impersonating a public officer such as a cop, soldier, or judge is illegal in Nevada. Courts may impose penalties including fines and possibly jail. But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or possibly dismissed.
Continue reading to learn about the Nevada offense of public officer impersonation. This article explains the law, penalties, and defenses.
Definition of "impersonation of an officer" in Nevada
Like it sounds, the legal definition of the Nevada crime of "impersonation of an officer" is when someone defrauds or injures another by falsely holding him/herself out as either a:
- public officer (civil or military), or
- police officer, or
- private individual having lawful authority to perform an act affecting the rights or interests of another
Note that a person may be convicted of violating NRS 199.430 even if he/she doesn't physically wear the uniform or badge of the officer being impersonated. Mesquite criminal defense lawyer Michael Becker gives an example:
David is angry at his neighbor in Henderson for not paying back a loan. So David calls his neighbor and claims to be a cop, and he warns the neighbor that he'll be arrested if he doesn't pay up. Frightened of being arrested, the neighbor pays David. If David is caught, the Henderson police could book David at the Henderson Detention Center for impersonating an officer in order to defraud the neighbor.
Also note that dressing up as an officer is not in itself a criminal act unless the
person means to defraud or injure another person. Searchlight criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains:
Henry dresses up as a cop for a costume party in North Las Vegas. After the party, he walks home in his costume. Anyone passing him on the street assumes he's a cop. Then actual North Las Vegas policemen see him and book him at the North Las Vegas Detention Center for impersonating a police officer.
Henry in the above example should not be convicted of officer impersonation because he did not use his costume to defraud or injure anybody else. The fact that passersby may have presumed he was an actual cop is irrelevant to the charges. Learn more about Nevada false impersonation laws.
Defenses to "impersonation of an officer" in Nevada
Each false impersonation case has unique circumstances which in turn dictate which defense strategies would prove most successful. The following are general tactics for fighting officer impersonation allegations:
- Lack of evidence. In order for a defendant to be found guilty of officer impersonation, the court has to find that the prosecution proved his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore the defense attorney would try to show the court the prosecution's evidence is too unreliable and insufficient to sustain a conviction. If the defense can poke enough holes in the prosecution's case, then the charges may be dropped.
- False accusations: Perhaps the defendant may have been falsely accused of officer impersonation by someone out of revenge, anger, or an innocent misunderstanding. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant is the victim of wrongful allegations, he/she shouldn't be held criminally liable.
- Police misconduct: Police sometimes violate the U.S. Constitution during criminal investigations by performing an illegal search, seizure or arrest. In such cases the defense attorney may file a Las Vegas motion to suppress evidence that requests that the court disregard all evidence discovered from the police's unlawful actions. If the motion is successful, the prosecution may choose to dismiss the entire officer impersonation case out of lack of proof.
Penalties for "impersonation of an officer" in Nevada
Impersonation an officer is prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes a sentence of:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
The judge may also order victim restitution in Nevada to compensate anyone who sustained damages from the false impersonation.
Accused of 'impersonating a cop' in Nevada? Call a lawyer for help...
If you or a loved one is facing charges for "impersonation of an officer" in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). It's possible we could negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense or even a full dismissal so your record stays clean.
Also see our articles on how to make a citizen's arrest in Nevada (NRS 171.126), Nevada fake ID laws and illegal use of personal identifying information in Nevada.
For cases in California or Colorado, please see our pages on Penal Code 538d - California law on impersonating a police officer, and CRS 18-8-112 Colorado law on impersonating a police officer.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.