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New York Criminal Personation And False Personation

By Spodek Law Group | February 13, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 03:00 pm

New York Criminal Personation and False Personation Laws

What is Criminal Personation and False Personation?

Criminal personation and false personation refer to falsely assuming the identity of another person in order to obtain a benefit, avoid arrest, or harm the person whose identity was stolen. This includes using someone else’s name, date of birth, social security number, or other identifying information without their permission[1].

Some common examples include:

  • Using a fake ID with someone else’s information to buy alcohol underage
  • Giving a police officer someone else’s name when getting pulled over
  • Applying for loans or credit cards under someone else’s name

So in a nutshell, criminal personation is pretending to be someone else to commit fraud or other crimes. False personation is specifically lying about your identity to police.

New York False Personation Law (PL 190.23)

Let’s start with the false personation law, since it’s the simplest one.

New York Penal Law 190.23 makes it illegal to give false identifying information to police officers or peace officers[2].

You’re guilty of false personation if:

  • You knowingly give false information about your name, date of birth, or address
  • You do this after being informed it’s illegal and the consequences
  • Your intent is to prevent officers from learning your real identity

False personation is a Class B misdemeanor. That means up to 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500[3].

Here’s an example case:

  • Joel Prado used a fake name and social security number to get a driver’s license and credit cards.
  • When he got arrested, he admitted doing this for years to avoid getting caught for earlier crimes.
  • The court said this was false personation under PL 190.23 since he used the fake ID to avoid arrest[2].

So false personation is basically lying to cops about who you are. The next laws deal with pretending to be someone else in other situations.

New York Criminal Impersonation Laws (PL 190.25 & 190.26)

New York also has two criminal impersonation laws prohibiting pretending to be someone else in order to commit fraud or other crimes:

Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree (PL 190.25)

This law makes it illegal to[4]:

  • Impersonate someone else online or electronically in order to:
    • Obtain a benefit
    • Injure or defraud someone
    • Pretend to be a public servant to get someone to obey your “authority”

Criminal impersonation in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor, with up to 1 year in jail[4].

Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree (PL 190.26)

This felony law prohibits[4]:

  • Pretending to be a doctor or someone else who can prescribe medication
  • Communicating a prescription to a pharmacist that should be in writing

Criminal impersonation in the first degree is a Class E felony, with up to 4 years in prison[4].

Penalties and Consequences

The penalties for false personation and criminal impersonation depend on the specific charge, but include[3][4]:

  • Up to 3 months jail for false personation
  • Up to 1 year jail for criminal impersonation in the second degree
  • Up to 4 years prison for criminal impersonation in the first degree

In addition to jail or prison time, these charges can also result in fines, probation, or community service.

Beyond the criminal penalties, a conviction can also lead to[5]:

  • Permanent criminal record
  • Difficulty getting or keeping professional licenses
  • Potential immigration issues if considered a crime of moral turpitude

So these charges should not be taken lightly. An experienced defense attorney can help minimize consequences.

Defenses to False Personation and Criminal Impersonation

There are several potential defenses if you’ve been accused of false personation or criminal impersonation, including[5]:

  • You did not have intent to defraud or harm – For many of these charges, prosecutors must prove you intended to use the false identity for fraudulent purposes.
  • You did not actually impersonate anyone – Mistaken identity is possible. You may be able to show you did not pretend to be someone else at all.
  • The officer did not properly advise you of the consequences – For false personation, officers must first warn you that giving false info is illegal. If they failed to do this properly, the charge may be dismissed.
  • You were unlawfully stopped or detained – If police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop and question you, your charges could potentially be dropped.

An experienced New York criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the details of your case and decide if any of these defenses may apply.

Bottom Line

I hope this simple guide provides an easy-to-understand overview of New York’s main criminal and false personation laws.  If you or a loved one have been accused of any type of criminal or false personation in New York, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, avoid convictions, and minimize penalties so these charges don’t negatively impact your future.

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