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Criminal Impersonation & Your Criminal Defense: New York Penal Law Sections 190.25 & 190.26

Before the dawn of identity theft laws, the crime of Criminal Impersonation, pursuant to New York Penal Law sections 190.25 and 190.26, was the weapon of the assistant district attorney to prosecute fraud crimes related to one’s identification or persona in New York. This entry will address the crime of Criminal Impersonation in Second Degree (NY PL 190.25) and Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree (NY PL 190.26). A second entry will address legal decisions applicable to these laws.

Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree – New York Penal Law 190.25

A person is guilty of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree when he:

(1) Impersonates another person. This impersonation must be accompanied by an intent to obtain a particular benefit or, in the alternative, to defraud another person. Although often charged as Theft of Services, pursuant to New York Penal Law 165.15, if one uses a metrocard, for example, of a student or senior citizen, the crime of NY PL 190.25 may be charged.

2. Again, with the intent to benefit or defraud another person, a person pretends to be a representative of a particular organization and acts in that capacity. The type and size of that organization does not matter.

3. (a) A person acts and pretends to be a public servant and, without authority, wears that particular uniform or shield, etc. of that public servant. In the alternative, that person, wrongfully expresses by action or words that he or she is the public servant or acting o their behalf; and (b) acts with intent to induce that person to submit to such pretended or false official authority for the purpose of obtaining funds or to cause the targeted person to act under the fraudulent authority or reliance on the fake public servant.

4. Impersonates another person online with the intent to defraud or obtain a benefit. In the alternative, that person pretends to be a public servant through electronic or online communication to induce that person to follow the authority of the fake public servant or to act in reliance on this pretense.

Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree – New York Penal Law 190.26

A person is guilty of Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree when:

1. He or she acts similar to NY PL 190.25(3) except that the person pretends to be a police officer or a federal law enforcement officer or wears or displays without authority, any uniform, badge or other insignia; and

2. That person acts with the intent to induce another to submit to such pretended official authority or otherwise to act in reliance upon said pretense and in the course of such pretense commits or attempts to commit a felony; or

3. Pretending to be a licensed doctor, physician or other person authorized to issue a prescription, he or she communicates to a pharmacist an oral prescription which is required to be reduced to writing.

Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree is a class E felony punishable by up to four years in state prison.

For further information on the crimes of Criminal Impersonation, please read the second installment of this “primer.” Not a direct transcription of the law, a reading of the actual statute and consultation with an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer is necessary to understand the nuances of the statutes as well as the potential criminal defenses that may be available to you.

Founded by former Manhattan prosecutors, Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients throughout the New York City region.