Is Pretending to be a Police Officer a Crime in Florida?

April 28, 2022 Criminal Defense

Uniforms are a common sight on Halloween: corrections officers, firefighters, and of course the typical police officer. However aside from October 31st, are you actually allowed to wear a fake uniform?

Many people may be unaware that pretending to be an officer is a crime in the state of Florida. There are serious consequences for falsely impersonating an officer, especially if it is during a crime. While some people simply do it as a prank, some individuals may put on a fake uniform to receive free stuff, get out of trouble, or to even interfere in other crimes. Regardless of the reason, it is important to have a full understanding of the charges for impersonating an officer and its consequences.   

False Personation in Florida

Florida Statute Section 843.08 defines false impersonation as when an individual falsely assumes to be a law enforcement officer and takes it upon themselves to act as if they are a law enforcement officer.

The following is a list of officers that fall under the false impersonation statute:

  • Police Officer or Sheriff
  • Firefighter
  • Florida Highway Patrol officer
  • Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer
  • Department of Environmental Protection Officer
  • Department of Financial Services Officer
  • Department of Corrections Officer
  • Correctional Probation Officer
  • State Attorney or Assistant State Attorney
  • Statewide Prosecutor or Assistant Statewide Prosecutor
  • State Attorney Director
  • A Coroner

Penalties for Impersonating an Officer

Impersonating an officer in the state of Florida can lead to serious consequences. A conviction for falsely impersonating an officer can result in a third-degree felony, which is punishable with up to a $5,000 fine, five years in prison, and five years of probation.

In addition, the crime of pretending to be an officer is assigned as a Level 2 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. This means that a convicted individual can only receive probation, or the judge can also impose a sentence up to the statutory maximum of five years in prison.

In the event that an individual has falsely impersonated an officer during the commission of a felony, the penalties become more severe. This is considered a second-degree felony and is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine, fifteen years in prison, and fifteen years of probation. In addition, this would be a Level 4 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.

The most extreme penalties come with an individual falsely impersonating an officer during the commission of a felony resulting in injury or death. In the event that someone is injured or killed while someone is pretending to be an officer, it is considered a first-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine, thirty years in prison, and thirty years of probation. In addition, this crime ranks as a Level 7 on Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.

Unless there are grounds for a downward departure, a person convicted of falsely impersonating an officer in the commission of a felony involving injury or death will be required to receive a minimum of 51 months in prison by the judge. However, the defendant could also receive the maximum sentence of thirty years in prison.

Example Cases

The following is a list of example cases of individuals falsely impersonating an officer in Florida:

  • In 2019, a man in Titusville falsely impersonated a police officer at a local McDonald’s. Albert James McDaniel, 48, had been flashing a fake police badge at various businesses in an attempt to receive discounts and freebies. Police were dispatched to McDonald’s after receiving a call about a “suspicious man.” After pulling McDaniel over, they found his fake police badge. McDaniel was charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer and was booked into Brevard County Jail.
  • Jeremy Dewitte, 42, was arrested in 2019 for impersonating a police officer while directing traffic for a funeral procession. A real Orange County deputy noticed a man posing as a law enforcement officer directing traffic. When the officer approached Dewitte, the fake police officer started yelling at the off-duty cop and even placed his hand on the gun in his belt. Dewitte was charged with impersonating a police officer. Records show that he had already been arrested three other times for the same crime, and was also a registered sex offender.

Dewitte was then arrested yet again in 2021 for the same crime, even wearing two black stars on the police uniform that signify that he was a two-star general in the U.S. military. In September 2021, Dewitte took a plea deal to serve 18 months in prison for the covered 10 cases against him.

  • Francisco “Frank” Pichel, a candidate for Miami Mayor, was arrested in the Florida Keys for impersonating a police officer. According to the report by Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, neighbors in a Key Largo neighborhood noticed a white BMW parked for a long period of time in front of the residence. When the two men approached the vehicle, Pichel displayed a gold law enforcement badge from the driver’s seat and stated that he was a police officer. After the neighbors called the police and showed authorities the security footage, a warrant was obtained for Pichel’s arrest. Pichel later turned himself into the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Pretending to be an officer is no laughing matter. Unless you’re planning on going to a Halloween party, falsely impersonating an officer in the state of Florida can land you some serious consequences. If you or a loved one have been accused of impersonating an officer or any other crime, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Receiving quality legal advice is important in any criminal case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida for various crimes. They understand the importance of building a strong defense to your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today and receive a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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