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New York Criminal Personation And False Personation

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:39 pm

New York Criminal Personation And False Personation

New York has laws against criminal impersonation and false personation, which are meant to prevent people from assuming a false identity or pretending to be someone else in order to obtain benefits or harm others. These laws can be found in Article 190 of the New York Penal Law.

False Personation

The crime of false personation is defined in Section 190.23 of the Penal Law. This law makes it illegal to knowingly give false information about your name, date of birth, or address to a police officer or peace officer after being informed of the consequences, with the intent to prevent the officer from learning your true identity.

For example, if a police officer asks you for identification during a traffic stop and you give a fake name instead of your real one, you could be charged with false personation. Even if you simply refuse to provide any identifying information at all, this could still qualify as a violation under the statute.

False personation is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 3 months in jail, probation, community service, or a fine of up to $500.

Some key things to know about false personation charges:

  • You have to be informed of the consequences before giving false info for it to be a crime. If the officer doesn’t warn you, it may not qualify.
  • You must have intended to prevent the officer from learning your true identity. If it was an honest mistake, you likely don’t have criminal intent.
  • Simply remaining silent or refusing to answer questions is not enough. You have to affirmatively give false information.
  • There are defenses available, such as lack of proper warning, lack of criminal intent, or invalid police questioning.

So while false personation can have serious consequences, there are ways for an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight the charges if you are arrested.

Criminal Impersonation

New York also prohibits criminal impersonation, which involves pretending to be another actual person, using their identity or personal information to obtain a benefit or harm others. There are two degrees of this crime:

Second Degree Criminal Impersonation

This is defined in Section 190.25 of the Penal Law. It occurs when someone:

  • Impersonates another person online or electronically in order to obtain a benefit, injure someone, or commit fraud.
  • Pretends to be a public servant online in order to get someone to submit to their authority or rely on their pretense.

For example, creating a fake social media profile using someone else’s name and photos, or falsely claiming to be a police officer online, could constitute second degree criminal impersonation.

This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

First Degree Criminal Impersonation

This more serious offense is defined in Section 190.26. It happens when someone:

  • Pretends to be a licensed physician or someone else authorized to prescribe medication.
  • Communicates a false prescription to a pharmacist.

For instance, calling in a fake prescription while claiming to be a doctor would violate this law.

First degree criminal impersonation is a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison.


There are defenses that could potentially beat an impersonation charge, including:

  • Lack of intent – If you did not mean to impersonate someone or did not intend to defraud or harm anyone, this could show lack of criminal intent.
  • Mistaken identity – If the accusation stems from an honest mistake or misunderstanding, rather than deliberate deception.
  • Consent – It is not criminal impersonation if the person being impersonated gave you permission.
  • Invalid police conduct – Such as questioning without Miranda warnings, coercion, etc. This could lead to suppression of evidence.
  • Mental health issues – These could negate criminal intent if you can show you were having an episode and did not understand your actions.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the details of your case and decide how best to build a defense to fight the charges.


If convicted of criminal impersonation or false personation, penalties may include:

  • Jail time – Ranging from 3 months to 4 years depending on degree.
  • Fines – Up to $500 for false personation, more for felony impersonation.
  • Probation – 1-5 years of supervised probation.
  • Community service – May be required as a condition of probation.
  • Restitution – Repaying any financial losses caused.
  • Permanent criminal record – Which can impact jobs, licensing, immigration status, etc.


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