Pretending To Be Police

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Pretending To Be Police

The boys in blue. As children we all looked up to police as being the “good guys”. Playing cops and robbers was a fun game leading to the exhilarating moment of catching the bad guy. While it is indeed exciting and fun as children, pretending to be a police officer faces severe consequences which can completely derail your life. Not too long ago, according to an article by Sydney Morning Herald, a man was suspended from his job after impersonating a police officer to obtain a discount on food available only to sword police officers. Subsequently, real police were called, and the man was arrested.

CAN I GO TO PRISON FOR PRETENDING TO BE A POLICE OFFICER?

In the eyes of the law, the penalty for impersonating a police officer falls under Section 546D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) below:

(1) General offence A person who impersonates a police officer is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 2 years, or a fine of 100 penalty units, or both.

(2) Aggravated offence A person who, with intent to deceive–

(a) impersonates a police officer, and

(b) purports to exercise a power or function as a police officer,

is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 7 years.

(3) An offence against subsection (1) is a summary offence.

(4) In this section–

             “impersonation” does not include conduct engaged in solely for satirical purposes.

The severity of the penalty for impersonating a police officer depends on the actions taken. Anyone who merely impersonates a police officer but does not try to deceive or exercise special police powers can be imprisoned for up to 2 years or face an $11,000 fine.

Where a person or attempts to use special police powers not available to the public with intent to deceive, then the penalty increases to up to 7 years imprisonment. This is a serious offence where a specialist criminal lawyer will be the pivotal factor in determining the outcome.

WHAT MUST THE PROSECUTION PROVE?

In criminal matters, the onus of proof lies with the prosecution. This means that in any criminal matter, you are assumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove that you committed the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the case of impersonating police, two things need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the more serious penalty to apply.

They include:

  • The accused person impersonated a police officer with intention to deceive; and
  • That the conduct involved special police powers.

Police have unique powers of arrest and control that they can exercise. Some special police powers include the following

  • Claiming to be a police officer to pull a car over.
  • Controlling traffic.
  • Arresting someone under suspicion of a crime and ceasing their property.
  • Give ‘move on’ directions whereby non-compliance is an offence.

This is not an exhaustive list and serves only as a guide of examples.

CAN A PERSON MAKE A ‘CITIZENS ARREST’?

Yes. In certain limited circumstances, the public have the power to arrest someone under Section 100 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW). This specifies that:

(1) A person (other than a police officer) may, without a warrant, arrest a person if–

(a) the person is in the act of committing an offence under any Act or statutory instrument, or

(b) the person has just committed any such offence, or

(c) the person has committed a serious indictable offence for which the person has not been tried.

(2) A person who arrests another person under this section must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, take the person, and any property found on the person, before an authorised officer to be dealt with according to law.

The Section 100 arrest is commonly known as a ‘citizen’s arrest’. The important difference between this and police arrests are that police can arrest while only suspecting that someone has committed an offence.

The citizen’s arrest can only be used if a person physically sees someone while they are committing an offence or if an offence is committed. Not merely suspect them to. For example, a person who sees another steal something from a shop and then tells a security guard, the security guard cannot arrest that person.

It is only sworn police who have special powers of arrest and can arrest someone based on another’s allegation.

ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS?

The law understands that there may be circumstances where pretending to be a police officer is necessary for certain purposes. This is accounted for as “satirical purposes” and is not considered an offence. For example, dressing up as a police officer for a costume party or acting in a film role would be satirical purposes.

Contact National Criminal Lawyers ® to obtain specific advice tailored to you if you are charged with this or any other offence.

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