False Citizenship

18 U.S. Code § 911 – False Claim of United States Citizenship

Title 18 U.S. Code 911 is a federal statute prohibiting someone from falsely claiming they are a United States citizen. The law is designed to preserve the integrity of the U.S. citizenship system and deter others from making fraudulent attempts to acquire benefits they are not entitled to.

Simply put, suppose you falsely represent yourself as a U.S. citizen with the intent to device. In that case, you could face federal criminal charges.

The federal statutes defining false impersonation are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 43. The related laws describe situations where someone could violate federal laws and face penalties.

18 U.S. Code § 911 – Citizen of the United States
Under 18 U.S.C. 911, it's a federal crime to falsely claim U.S. citizenship with the intent to deceive.

18 U.S.C. 911 says, “Whoever falsely and willfully represents himself to be a citizen of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

18 U.S.C. 912 says, “Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Under the law, a citizen was born in the United States or its territories, born abroad to citizen parents, or naturalized as a citizen through a legal process.

False personation also includes oral and written statements and producing fraudulent documents to support the false claim. Let's take a closer look at the federal laws below.

What Are the Elements of the Crime?

To convict you of violating 18 U.S.C. 911, a federal prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:

  • You knowingly made a false claim of United States citizenship;
  • The claim was made intending to deceive; and
  • It was made to a person with a valid reason to inquire into your immigration or citizenship status, such as a government official or agency.

Other things you should know about this law

  • The false claim does not have to be successful to violate the law. Just the attempt to deceive is sufficient to be prosecuted and convicted.
  • Just telling someone you are a citizen is not enough for prosecution. Under the law, there must be an intent to deceive.
  • An exemption under the law includes a young resident with one citizen parent if residing in the U.S. before age 16, having one U.S. citizen parent, and misrepresenting your citizenship in good faith.
  • Another exemption is a false citizenship claim made before Sept. 30, 1996. If this applies, you might be able to obtain a waiver to avoid prosecution.

What Are the Related Offenses?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 43 False Personation has several federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 911 falsely impersonating a citizen of the United States, including the following:  

  • 18 U.S.C. 912 – Officer or employee of the United States law involves pretending to be a federal agent or employee demanding money, documents, or property. A conviction carries up to three years in prison.
  • 18 U.S.C. 913 - Impersonators making an arrest or search law involve falsely representing themselves as a government officer who conducts searches or arrests or detains someone.
  • 18 U.S.C. 914 - Creditors of the United States defined law involves impersonating a lawful holder of public stocks, dividends, pensions, and annuities and trying to collect money on those pretenses.
  • 18 U.S.C. 915 - Foreign diplomats, consuls, or officers law makes it a crime to pretend to be a diplomat, consul, or another foreign government official demanding money, money, documents, or anything of value.
  • 18 U.S.C. 916 - 4–H Club members or agents law carries up to six months in prison if convicted.
  • 18 U.S.C. 917 - Red Cross members or agent's law violations carry up to five years in prison if convicted.

What Are the 18 U.S.C. 911 Penalties?

Suppose you are convicted of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 911, a false claim of citizenship. In that case, you will face the following penalties:

  • Up to three years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  • Possible fines up to $250,000;
  • Possible immigration consequences, including deportation or being barred from re-entry into the United States;
  • Even if you are not convicted under this law, you might still face deportation and ineligibility for re-entry if you are here illegally.

What Are the 18 U.S.C. 911 Defenses?

Suppose you have been accused of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 911, a false claim of citizenship. In that case, our federal criminal defense attorneys could use different strategies to fight the charges, as discussed below.

Defenses for False Claim of United States Citizenship
Contact our criminal law firm for guidance.

Maybe we can argue there was a lack of Intent.  The prosecutor must prove there was an intent to deceive. Perhaps we can prove that you did not knowingly make a false claim of citizenship and avoid a conviction in federal court.

Maybe we can argue there was a mistake of fact.  Perhaps you had a reasonable belief that you were a United States citizen because of an honest misunderstanding of the law or your immigration status.  In other words, there was no intentional attempt to deceive the authorities.

Maybe we can argue there was duress or coercion.  Perhaps we can show that you were under pressure to claim citizenship falsely.

Maybe we can persuade the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Recall that the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe we can create reasonable doubt and avoid a conviction.

We offer a free case evaluation by phone or via the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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