Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform in New York
Police officers are trusted with access to many things that the average citizen is not. Because of the responsibilities of police officers, the justice system must ensure that only those authorized to wear particular police uniforms are in possession of them. This is the rationale behind the criminal sale of a police uniform.
A few instances where you may find yourself charged with the criminal sale of a police uniform are:
- Selling the uniform of a police officer in the family at a garage sale.
- Selling a police officer’s uniform to an individual without first getting sufficient verification that the individual is authorized to purchase the uniform.
- Carrying an accurate replica of a police officer uniform to a theatrical production.
Statutes Governing the Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform in New York
Article 190 of the New York State Penal Law is titled other frauds. Among these other frauds is the crime of criminal sale of a police uniform. Under NY PL § 190.27, the crime of the criminal sale of a police uniform is a class A misdemeanor. Before diving into what constitutes the criminal sale of a police uniform, let’s first define a couple of key terms.
According to NY PL § 190.27, for the purposes of that specific section, the term “police officer” is meant to include federal law enforcement officials, in addition to local or state law enforcement officers. If you sell the uniform of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to someone not authorized to possess one, you are still subject to prosecution under New York state law.
Additionally, the term “uniform” is meant to include any part of the uniform that would lead the members of the public to believe that the person wearing it was a member of the police. This includes the uniform itself as well as a shield, badge, or other item containing identifying numbers or insignias.
Elements of Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
In order to be convicted of the criminal sale of a police uniform, the prosecutor must prove the following elements as true:
- You sell or offer to sell a police officer’s uniform to any person without authorization:
- You satisfy this element by offering to or actually selling a police officer’s uniform to a person not authorized to possess such a uniform. You need not actually complete the transaction in order to satisfy this element of the offense.
- For example, if you stand on a street corner and solicit passersby to purchase a police officer uniform, you have satisfied this element. If someone does, in fact, purchase the uniform, you have likewise satisfied the element.
- A valid photo identification card proving the purchaser is a member of the police department matching the uniform being purchased; or
- In order to satisfy this element of the offense, you must make the offer or sale absent being presented with a police officer’s ID card. You must also verify that the officer is a member of the specific police force associated with the uniform.
- For example, if you offer to sell a police uniform to an individual based only upon their word and a driver’s license, you have satisfied this element of the crime.
- An authorization signed by the police chief or commissioner accompanied by photo identification;
- In order to satisfy this element of the offense, you must make the offer or sale absent being presented with an authorization signed by the police chief or commissioner, along with the officer’s photo ID. You must also verify that the officer is a member of the specific police force associated with the uniform.
For example, if you offer to sell a police uniform to an individual based only upon a note jotted on a notepad with only the signature of a police corporal.
Federal Statutes on the Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
There is also some federal law that deals with the criminal sale of a police uniform. Section 716 of Title 18 of the United States Code is entitled “Public employee insignia and uniform.”
Under 18 U.S.C. § 716, there are four situations where you make violate this federal statute. The federal prosecutor must prove one of the following in order to convict you of this crime:
- You knowingly transport, transfer, or receive a counterfeit of an official uniform or insignia, through interstate commerce;
- You transfer a genuine official uniform or insignia, through interstate commerce, knowing that the recipient of said uniform or insignia is not authorized to possess it under the law of the place where the uniform or insignia originates;
- You knowingly receive a genuine uniform or insignia in a transfer in the same manner as the above example; or
- You knowingly transport a genuine official uniform or insignia in interstate commerce, being a person not authorized to possess such uniform or insignia
Punishments Under the Federal Law
The criminal sale of a police uniform can carry some substantial penalties, in order to deter any members of the public from attempting to facilitate the impersonation of an officer.
A violation of this federal statute can be punished by up to six (6) months imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Under this section, some defenses to this crime are listed. It is a defense that the uniform or insignia is being used for a purpose other than to deceive or mislead.
If the uniform or insignia is to be used exclusively for decorative purposes, as a memento in an exhibit, for a dramatic presentation such as film or television, or for any other recreational purpose, it is not a violation of federal law. Similarly to the New York Penal Law on the subject, it is irrelevant whether the uniform or insignia is of federal, state, or local law enforcement.
Federal and State Charges
As you can see from the overlapping state and federal statutes, a scheme involving the criminal sale of a police uniform can lead to a series of federal and state charges.
If the scheme is done on a large scale and across state lines, the charges can stack up quite quickly, and while an individual count carries a maximum of six (6) months imprisonment, a series of charges can lead to many years behind bars.
With such rapid growth in punishments possible, it is essential to have a trained legal professional by your side, fighting for your freedom.
Offenses Related to the Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
Article 190 of the New York Penal Law covers other frauds. One related offense is a criminal impersonation. Criminal impersonation can either be committed the first or second degree. The case of impersonation of a police officer would be a criminal impersonation in the first-degree offense.
Criminal impersonation in the first degree is often the offense that is committed by the person illegally purchasing the police uniform. The crime of criminal impersonation in the first degree is codified at NY PL § 190.26.
Criminal impersonation in the first degree is a class E felony under New York law. Under the first subsection of NY PL § 190.26, you commit the crime of criminal impersonation in the first degree when:
- You pretend to be a federal law enforcement or police officer; or
- You can accomplish this through means other than a uniform. Outfitting your vehicle in a way that would make a reasonable person believe you are a police officer
- For example, if you buy a police light and siren on the internet and use it to pull over and rob drivers late at night, you may be charged with criminal impersonation in the first degree.
- You wear, present, or display any badge, uniform, or insignia, without authorization, that would distinguish you as acting with the approval of the law enforcement agency on the uniform
- Using any distinguishable aspect of a police uniform to deceive or mislead others can be enough to be charged with this offense.
For example, if you dress in dark inconspicuous clothing and flash a counterfeit police badge, claiming to be an FBI agent, you could be charged with criminal impersonation in the first degree.
Agencies Tasked with Prosecuting Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
The criminal sale of a police uniform is a crime that can be committed on many levels. Because every police and federal law enforcement agency has a uniform, they are all susceptible to this offense.
Any time you are selling or attempting to sell a police uniform, you never know who might be an officer or at the very least being able to recognize someone who is not authorized to possess such a uniform. Because the crime covers local, state, and federal officials, all three levels of law enforcement would be enforcing and prosecuting the criminal sale of a police uniform.
- You may be originally investigated by the NYPD and prosecuted by the State of New York.
- If the police uniform you were charged with selling were a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer uniform the federal government, possibly the FBI would get involved. If during this investigation it is revealed that the uniform you were charged with illegally selling had been delivered to you from Virginia, you may now be charged with a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 716.
- You now may face prosecution from the United States Attorney General’s Office. With so many different agencies and offices investigating and prosecuting crimes related to the criminal sale of a police uniform.
Statutory Penalties for the Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
The criminal sale of a police uniform is a class A misdemeanor under the New York Penal Code. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor under New York law is a term of imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year or a period of probation not to exceed three (3) years.
In addition, you may also be fined up to $1,000 or twice the amount of your financial gain from the crime if you are convicted of the federal offense defined under 18 U.S.C. § 716, Public employee insignia and uniform, you may face up to six (6) months of imprisonment and a fine, or both.
The crime of criminal impersonation in the first degree is a class E felony under New York law. Under the New York Penal Law, class E felonies are punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed four (4) years or probation, a fine, or both. With all of the thousands of dollars in fines and the countless days wasted behind bars, don’t you think you need a skilled attorney fighting for you?
In addition to the potential jail time and financial consequences of being convicted of criminal sale of a police uniform, other consequences may affect you as well. Being convicted of a crime of fraud may impact your career prospects in the future. It is almost certain that you would not be permitted to be a police officer after a conviction for the criminal sale of a police uniform.
Many other potential employers would not extend an employment offer to you knowing you have committed a crime of fraud. If you were convicted of committing the related crime of criminal impersonation in the first degree, you would be subject to the additional consequences of having a felony on your record.
Many aspects of your life are likely to be impacted, such as your ability to find housing or steady employment, as well as the inability to access government benefits, including student loans.
Legal Defenses to the Criminal Sale of a Police Uniform
There are some legal defenses that may be able to protect you from a charge of criminal sale of a police uniform.
It is possible that you may be attempting to sell prop police uniforms that are meant to be similar enough to evoke the idea of a police officer without the intent of deceiving or misleading anyone.
This is likely to be a particularly common defense in New York City.
With so much theater, film, and television taking place in the city, many residents are looking to buy a realistic looking police uniform. This leads to a robust market for these uniforms, and in turn, a fair amount of sales of these uniforms.
In addition to the defense of the police uniform not being authentic and simply being used for theatrical purposes, a suspect may also have a defense that a good faith effort to verify the purchaser’s identity was made. The seller must be presented with the proper and valid documentation in order to sell a police uniform to an individual.
It would not be much of a stretch to assume that a person who is trying to obtain a police uniform illegally would create a fraudulent authentication document. You may be able to show that you asked for and were presented with the requisite documentation, but the documentation provided was, in fact, an extremely accurate forgery.
It may also be possible for you to argue that the article of the uniform that you sold was not an identifying enough piece of the uniform to convey the idea that the individual wearing it was a member of the law enforcement agency. If you sell a pair of black police issue boots, this alone may not be enough.
A simple pair of basic black leather boots with a pair of jeans and a tee shirt would not give a reasonable citizen the impression the person wearing it was a police officer. If the items you are selling or attempting to sell are minor and nondescript, you may have an effective defense against the charge of the criminal sale of a police uniform.
In order to find out which defenses are applicable to your case and which best fit the unique circumstances of your situation, call us today and set up a consultation.
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The criminal sale of a police uniform is a more serious crime than you may have thought and can have some harsh legal consequences. With the potential for fines, probation, and even jail time, having a knowledgeable lawyer can make all the difference in the world. The justice system tries to eliminate fraud and the related activities and treats instances of fraud very harshly.
Fraud that involves attempts to aid those in the pursuit of impersonating a police officer is an especially serious type of fraud. With the possibility of multiple counts on both the federal and state level, proceeding without adequate legal representation is unwise. Retaining counsel early on in the legal process ensures the highest likelihood of a positive outcome for you.
For any questions about the criminal sale of a police uniform in New York, or to have a confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys, please reach out to use today. We have a nearby office that will be able to assist you.