If you falsely represent yourself in certain situations, you could be charged with a federal criminal offense.
For example, 18 U.S. Code 913 makes it a crime for someone to falsely represent themselves as an agent, officer, or employee of the United States who searches someone or a building or who arrests or detains another person while pretending to be an agent of the government.
Simply put, impersonating a federal officer, agent, or employee is a federal crime. The primary reason for this statute is that citizens' trust in government is frequently based on interactions with the people they represent. Thus, false impersonation can affect public confidence.
Suppose you impersonate a federal agent while conducting an illegal search. In that case, you could be indicted for violating Title 18 U.S.C. 913, which carries up to three years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
18 U.S. Code 913 says, “Whoever falsely represents themselves to be an officer, agent, or employee of the United States, and in such assumed character arrests or detains anyone or in any manner searches the person, buildings, or other property of another person, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
The related federal statute, 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….”
However, for a federal prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they will have to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps we can cast reasonable doubt to avoid a conviction. Let's review this law further below.
18 U.S.C. 913 - Explained
Other federal statutes involve impersonation, but 18 U.S.C. 913 covers the crime of an unlawful arrest or search while impersonating a federal official.
As noted, the text within the law says, "Whoever falsely represents himself to be an officer, agent, or employee of the United States.”
Federal prosecutors have two primary elements of the crime they must prove, including the following:
- You falsely impersonated a federal employee, pretending to be somebody you're not. Notably, supporting these charges is insufficient if you dress up like a federal agent or wear a badge. You must have taken direct steps to convince others that you were a federal employee.
- You arrest or search while pretending to be a federal employee. In context, a "search" can involve searching an individual person, someone's home or office, or a property.
Notably, the government does not have to prove that you intended to violate someone's legal rights while making an arrest or search. They only must prove that you falsely arrested someone or searched for something while falsely impersonating a federal employee.
An illegal arrest or search while posing as a federal agent, officer, or employee is a felony offense that carries the following penalties per offense:
- Up to three years in prison, and
- A fine of up to $10,000.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 43 False Personation has several laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 913 Impersonator making arrest or search, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 911 - Citizen of the United States law prohibits impersonating a citizen and carries up to three years in prison if convicted;
- 18 U.S.C. 912 - Officer or employee of the United States law prohibits pretending to be a federal agent, officer, or employee and demanding money, documents, or property while posing;
- 18 U.S.C. 914 - Creditors of the United States law prohibit impersonating a lawful holder of the debt, such as public stocks and pensions, and then attempting to collect money from on those false pretenses;
- 18 U.S.C. 915 - Foreign diplomats, consuls, or officers law prohibits pretending to be a diplomat, consular, or other official who demands or tries to obtain money, papers, documents, or anything of value;
- 18 U.S.C. 916 - 4–H Club members or agents law carries up to six months in federal prison if convicted;
- 18 U.S.C. 917 Red Cross members or agents law carries up to five years in prison if convicted.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 913?
Suppose you were accused of violating this federal law. In that case, our federal criminal defense lawyers might be able to challenge the elements of the crime to avoid a conviction, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue that you were not impersonating a federal employee. Recall that the government has to prove that you took direct steps to convince someone you were an employee. If the prosecutor can't prove the crucial “direct step” factor, you should avoid a conviction.
Maybe we can argue you did not detain anyone or conduct any type of search. Again, the government has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you detained or searched somebody or property while falsely impersonating a federal employee. Maybe we can challenge the details of this crucial factor.
If guilt is not in doubt, or there is sufficient evidence to convict you, maybe we could negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea deal. Either way, you need a defense lawyer familiar with federal laws and how the federal criminal justice system works.
We offer a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California. We provide legal representation throughout the United States for federal criminal matters.