BILL NUMBER: S26
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the penal law, in relation to creating the crime of
committing an offense while impersonating a police officer or peace
To deter people from committing crimes while impersonating a police
officer by elevating the level of specified offenses committed while
impersonating a police officer.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :
Modeled after the Hate Crimes Act, Section 1 prohibits committing a
specified offense while impersonating a police officer or peace
officer, either by, without authority: displaying a uniform, badge, or
insignia; expressly claiming to be a police officer or peace officer;
displaying a forward facing red light on the person's vehicle or
displaying other markings which give the appearance that the vehicle
is a police vehicle. Specified offenses include many of the offenses
listed in the Hate Crimes Act, as well as certain additional offenses,
such as crimes involving fraud, crimes involving firearms or other
weapons, and crimes of terrorism.
Section 1 also sets out the level of offense when a person commits or
attempts to commit a specified offense while impersonating a police
officer or peace officer. For crimes up to class B felonies, such
offenses are one category higher than the specified offense would have
been, had the person not impersonated a police officer. For example,
a person who commits the class D felony of Robbery 3rd, while
impersonating a police officer, would be guilty of a class C felony.
This would permit the sentencing court to impose a sentence up to
fifteen years. Under current law, Robbery 3rd is punishable by a
sentence of up to seven years in prison, and this hypothetical
defendant may also be sentenced to an additional four years for the
class E felony of Criminal Impersonation 1st: a total maximum sentence
of only eleven years. A person with no prior felony conviction who
commits a B felony while impersonating a police officer would be
sentenced to a maximum term of at least six years and a person who
commits a class A-I felony, would be sentenced to a maximum term of at
least twenty years. A person who commits the violation of Harassment
2nd (harassment in a public place or threatening a person with
physical harm with the intent to cause annoyance or alarm) while
impersonating a police officer would be elevated to a class A
misdemeanor. This is the only violation which is a specified offense
under this section.
Section 2 amends section 70.25 of the Penal Law to require that
sentences imposed for committing an offense while impersonating a
police officer or peace officer run concurrently with any sentence for
Criminal Impersonation. This provision is necessary to ensure that a
person will not be unduly punished twice for a single act, a
protection afforded for lesser included offenses via the merger
doctrine, yet will still serve the longer of the sentences Imposed.
Section 3 is the effective date.
Police officers and peace officers fill a vital role in our
communities by providing protection to our citizens and enforcement of
our laws. Because of the special powers and responsibilities we give
to law enforcement officers, people will more readily follow their
commands or instructions, as they are required to do under the law.
The fact that drivers will pull over to the side of the road and stop
for a police vehicle is evidence of the special power and authority
afforded to police. Unfortunately, some criminals have discovered that
they can more easily win the compliance of their victims by
impersonating a member of law enforcement.
Additionally, police officers and many peace officers are permitted to
purchase, own and carry weapons which other people cannot own. Police
officers and peace officers may be granted access to buildings and
areas which other people would not be permitted to enter. These places
could include a person's home, an airport, a power plant or any number
of other areas. The types of people who might take advantage of these
special privileges afforded to police officer and peace officer could
range from petty criminals to terrorists.
This legislation would increase the penalty for impersonating a police
officer in accordance to the harm their underlying crime causes to
their victims and to society. It would recognize that, while both
should be held accountable, a person who commits a more serious crime
while impersonating a police officer does greater harm than a person
who commits a lesser offense. This bill would permit people who commit
more serious offenses while impersonating a police officer or peace
officer to be sentenced to a longer period of imprisonment than under
Finally, when criminals impersonate police officers, they make the job
of law enforcement officers more difficult, because law abiding people
may be unsure whether the person they are meeting is a real police
officer or peace officer protecting their community, or a disguised
criminal looking to do them harm.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
2007-2008 Passed the Senate (S.3080/A.3502).
2005-2006 Codes Committee (S.4688-A/A.8077).
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
EFFECTIVE DATE :
On the first of November, next succeeding the date on which it shall
have become a law.