Several people have been pulled over or robbed in recent weeks by someone impersonating a police officer. Though this isn’t a brand new trend, incidents involving fake cops have risen since many states issued shelter-in-place orders in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. In Illinois, impersonating a police officer is considered a Class 4 Felony. Anyone charged with pretending to be an officer of the law should consult a criminal defense attorney immediately.
Earlier this year, in Illinois, a Lansing man was arrested for impersonating an officer. He used flashing lights to speed down I-80/94 without issue. Last fall, four men were charged in DuPage County with impersonating police officers, wearing phony badges, and ringing doorbells to ask Wheaton residents about a “missing persons report.”
The opportunity for folks to impersonate police officers has risen in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities are diligently monitoring shelter-in-place orders, which means some people may pretend to be authority figures in an effort to either help out, wield power, or get some fast cash.
The New York Times reported a California man was in a park when another man in a “tactical-type vest” approached him. The man in the vest threatened the first man with jail time and a $1,000 fine for being out in public. Other people around the country have reported being pulled over by traffic cop impersonators with fake police lights.
According to Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/17-2, anyone who misrepresents themselves as one of the following could face charges:
- An active-duty member of the Armed Services or Reserve Forces of the United States
- An active-duty member of the National Guard
- A police offer, Sheriff’s deputy, Peace Officer, or anything similar in nature
- A firefighter
- A paramedic
- A public official
- An actual person (for example, using a police officer’s real name when impersonating them)
Misrepresenting oneself includes telling someone you are a public official and wearing a badge or other identifying emblem that leads people to believe you are part of a police organization. Basically, even if you wear the uniform and say nothing, you can still be charged.
If a person is caught impersonating a police officer or public official, they will likely be charged with a Class 4 Felony. This is punishable by up to three years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines. Again, if any additional crimes were committed while impersonating an officer, those charges would be tacked on the Class 4 Felony charge.
For instance, pretending to be a cop while carrying a firearm is a Class 3 Felony. If oscillating (rotating) police lights are involved, that’s a Class 2 Felony charge (625 ILCS 5/12-215).
If you or someone you know has been charged with impersonating a police officer or something similar, contact Richard at Fenbert Law for a free consultation.