California Vehicle Code Section 27 VC: Impersonating A California Highway Patrol Officer

highway patrol officer impersonation1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

The California Highway Patrol is the law enforcement agency responsible for patrolling the roads and highways of California. Everyone who has ever received a traffic ticket while travelling on California’s highways is familiar with the CHP. The officers of this agency drive specially marked vehicles and wear distinct uniforms that set them apart from all other law enforcement agencies in the state. They have the power to make traffic stops, issue lawful orders and conduct arrests. Because California Highway Patrol officers are granted this kind of authority, there may be those who are tempted to impersonate a CHP officer for a variety of reasons. However, under California Vehicle Code Section 27 VC, impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer is a criminal offense that can carry jail time and other penalties.

In order to prove that someone is guilty of impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant impersonated or wore the badge of a member of the California Highway Patrol.
  2. AND the defendant did so without authority.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Impersonating a Peace Officer - California Penal Code Section 538(d) PC
  2. False Impersonation - California Penal Code Section 529 PC
3. Examples

A man keeps a fake novelty badge in his car. One day while driving on the freeway, the man is involved in a road rage incident with another driver. The other driver cuts the man off, so in response the man flashes the fake badge and motions the other driver to pull over. The other driver complies, believing that the man is a law enforcement officer. The man tells the other driver that he is an undercover CHP officer and that he could arrest him if he wanted to. When he is satisfied that the other driver is sufficiently scared, the man leaves the scene. This man could be charged with impersonating a CHP officer in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 27 VC, among other criminal offenses.

In another example, a man is looking for a costume for an upcoming Halloween party. The man finds a replica uniform, sunglasses and helmet that look similar to the ones worn by California Highway Patrol officers. The costume is obviously not an authentic uniform and the man does not make any attempts to pass himself off as a CHP officer while wearing it. This man would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 27 VC, as the law is not intended to prosecute those wearing costumes for novelty purposes and additionally, the costume did not actually look authentic.

In another example, a popular television drama films an episode about California Highway Patrol officers. The show employs actors to wear authentic-looking CHP uniform and badges. The actors only wear the apparel while filming. No one associated with the television production would be guilty of impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer in this example, as there is an exemption for the use of badges, uniforms and other official items for films, television, plays and other similar productions, as long as the use of these items is properly controlled.

4. Defenses to Impersonating a California Highway Patrol Officer

As described above, this statute would not apply to those wearing a California Highway Patrol badge or uniform as part of a costume, or for use in a play, film or television production.

5. Penalties

Impersonating a California Highway Patrol Officer is a misdemeanor offense. Those convicted of this crime can be sentenced to serve up to 180 days in county jail in addition to court fines and any other probation requirements that may be imposed.

6. Criminal Defense for Impersonating a California Highway Patrol Officer Cases

If you or someone you know have been accused of impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer, it is crucial that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands that an offense like this may have been committed as a joke and without a full appreciation of the consequences that conviction can carry. In many cases, Mr. Kraut may be able to intervene before charges have been filed to present mitigating information that would help prevent charges from being filed.

For more information about impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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