New York Penal Law 190.23: False Personation & Legally Sufficient Criminal Complaints

Sometimes, when we are frustrated, we tend to get “cute” or “fresh.” While talking back to your mother or a friend may get you further into an argument, doing the same with the police can make a bad situation exponentially worse. Its not just a bad attitude that can aggravate a legal situation, but should you give false information to the police in New York upon your arrest, you may find yourself charged with False Personation. A “B” misdemeanor crime punishable by jail, False Personation (New York Penal Law 190.23) is a potentially serious offense.

Fortunately, as serious a crime that False Personation may be, not all bogus answers can lead to a criminal prosecution. You are guilty of NY PL 190.23 if you are advised of the consequences of misrepresenting your name, date of birth or address to the police, you actually misrepresent that information with the intent of preventing the officer from ultimately obtaining the accurate information. While the type of behavior that is criminal seems fairly straight forward, a recent New York Criminal Court decision out of Brooklyn sheds some light on the issue of how prosecutors prove this crime.

In People v. Sincere Kingsbarry, 2011KN056538, NYLJ 1202577064424, at *1 (Crim., KI, Decided October 26, 2012), the defendant was riding his bicycle where prohibited in violation of a local New York City law (on the side walk…uh oh!). The complaint against the defendant alleged that the police advised the defendant of the crime of misrepresenting his name, date of birth and address. Despite this, the defendant provided the police with a different date of birth and address than that listed on his New York State Identification Card. Therefore, according to the complaint, the complainant must have given false information. Other than the police officer’s statement as to what was contained on the identification card, the actual card was not provided.

The defendant asserted that in order to make the complaint legally sufficient, the People needed a certified copy of the defendant’s New York State Identification Card. In that regard, the Court noted that “[t]he accusatory instrument before the Court requires corroboration of the Officer’s statement that he reviewed a document in order to establish that Defendant had given the officer an incorrect date of birth and address.” While the Court did not state that a certified copy of this record was in fact needed to make the charges against the defendant legally sufficient, “the People must state the basis for the Officer’s knowledge of [d]efendant’s correct date of birth and address in the accusatory instrument. The failure to do so renders the information before the Court in this case facially insufficient.”

In this particular case, the People were given the opportunity to rectify the mistake or supersede the information. Whether or not the People did so and did so with a certified record is unknown. However, the importance of this case cannot be overstated. A mere assertion by a police officer, without corroboration or a cure to any hearsay, can ultimately deem the complaint in question legally insufficient. Having said that, this case is also relevant for another reason. If in fact the young man was riding his bike on a sidewalk as a minor infraction, providing the police with his proper date of birth and address would likely have avoided months of court proceedings and the headache of being charged with a crime. Sometimes thinking things through rationally is much more important than being “cute.”

To educate yourself on other areas of the New York Criminal Law from Desk Appearance Tickets and Identity Theft to False Personation and Assault, a review of both the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com and website will provide legal analysis of criminal statutes and case decisions.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout New York City and the region for all criminal investigations, arrests and trials.

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