North Carolina Criminal Law 14-277(a): Misdemeanor Impersonation of Law-Enforcement Officer
Under North Carolina Criminal Law 14-277(a), Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer is a misdemeanor criminal offense whereby the defendant allegedly falsely communicates to another person that he or she is a law enforcement officer by verbal communication, use of false identification, or use of a vehicle with red lights or blue lights.
The key difference between misdemeanor and felony impersonation of a law enforcement officer is that the defendant must use blue lights for the criminal offense to be a felony charge.
In order to convict a Defendant of Misdemeanor Impersonation of Law Enforcement Officer under 14-277(a), the Assistant District Attorney must prove things like:
- The Defendant is not a law enforcement officer or “other public officer”
- The Defendant represents or portrays him or herself to be a law enforcement officer to another person
- By telling another person, using a badge/police identification, or using a vehicle with flashing red lights
- Unlawfully operates, on a public vehicular area, street, or highway, a motor vehicle using a flashing red light
The Defendant does not have to refer to a specific law enforcement agency to be charged with the offense.
Defendant is driving his personal vehicle, a grey in color Dodge Charger, on I-77 near the intersection of I-485 in Charlotte, NC. He pulls behind another car on the highway and activates a flashing red light placed on his dashboard. There are no police markings on the Defendant’s vehicle. There are also no Fire, Medic, or any other official markings on the Defendant’s car. In response to a siren and the flashing red light, the other motorist pulls over believing the Defendant to be a police officer. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer sees the two vehicles on the side of the road, knowing all emergency vehicles with flashing red lights in Mecklenburg County also have other markings on the side, front, and back of the respective emergency vehicles. The CMPD officer writes in his arrest narrative, “The cars were not in a safe place in the side of the highway. The flashing red light could not be seen by traffic approaching from the rear. There also have been a series of complaints in the vicinity of Arrowood Road, Westinghouse Boulevard, and South Charlotte regarding an unmarked gray Dodge Charger with flashing red lights pulling over motorists and warning them about speeding.” Upon further investigation, the police officer arrests the Defendant and transports him to the Mecklenburg Count Jail. It is later determined the Defendant has previously applied to be a volunteer fire-fighter for Pineville Fire Department. Due to a prior criminal record, Defendant’s application to volunteer has been repeatedly rejected. The Defendant may be charged with Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer, a Class I Misdemeanor offense.
The Defendant is driving a dark colored sedan and sees another motorist speeding at a high rate of speed on I-85 North on the Mecklenburg / Cabarrus County line. He calls 911 advising, “Requesting back-up on a citizen’s arrest, reckless driving in Mecklenburg.” The Defendant advises CMPD Dispatch of his location and direction of travel. The Defendant also turns on a flashing blue LED light he purchased on eBay and places it on his dashboard. NC State Highway Patrol Officers engage in a high-speed pursuit exceeding 100 m.p.h. a times, stopping the “suspect vehicle” as well as the Defendant. Defendant exits the vehicle, drawing a gun, and flashes a “Citizens Public Safety Officer” badge he bought on-line to NC SHP officers. Troopers immediately confirm the Defendant is not a sworn law enforcement officer and arrest him. The Defendant is charged with Felony Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer, reckless driving, speeding in excess of the posted speed limit, and Resisting / Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer in Mecklenburg County and is later indicted for felony and misdemeanor charges in Charlotte. If convicted of speeding of 100 m.p.h. the NC DMV may also revoke the Defendant’s NC Driver’s License.3. Related Offenses
Other related crimes offenses include:
- Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren
- Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance
- Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren
- Felony Identity Theft
- North Carolina General Statute 14-277
Applicable defenses and strategies can differ for each case and fact pattern. However, a Defendant may be able to challenge a case for Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer with defenses such as mistake of fact, mistaken identity (falsely accused), or if the Defendant is in fact a sworn law enforcement officer.5. Penalties and Punishment for Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer
Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer is a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense under North Carolina Criminal Law 14-277(a)(1)-(3). Conviction of a Class 1 Misdemeanor carries a maximum punishment of up to 120 days in jail.
Applicable punishments often depend the Defendant’s Prior Record Level and the nature and circumstances of the allegations.
However, it is important to note that use of a car with flashing blue lights will elevate this offense to a Class I Felony, under 14-277(a)(4). A Class I Felony carries a maximum punishment of up to 24 months in jail.6. Legal Counsel for Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer
Impersonation of Law Enforcement Officer cases are prosecuted vigorously in North Carolina. If you are facing a criminal charge for allegedly impersonating law enforcement or improperly holding yourself out as emergency personnel, it’s important to retain a criminal attorney to represent you immediately.
To learn more about our team of attorneys, CALL NOW 704-342-4357. Powers Law Firm provides free, confidential consultations for criminal charges in Charlotte area and surrounding counties of Union County NC, Iredell County, Gaston County, and Rowan County, North Carolina.