In September 2015, a man named Thomas Manning Hook was arrested in Florida for impersonating a bail bondsman, driving with a suspended license, and committing criminal actions under the color of law. He had pulled over his vehicle to speak to police deputies who were investigating a crash, and showed them false identification. His vehicle had been outfitted with emergency lights, bars over the back windows, and stickers indicating that he was a volunteer firefighter, and that he had served in the Marines.
Hook was not a bail bondsman, though, nor was he a police officer, a firefighter, or a Marine. He was, however, a registered sex offender. And his case has garnered a significant amount of media attention, because it marked the 14th time that he has been arrested for false impersonation.
What is False Personation?
Impersonating a law enforcement officer is a crime under Florida Statute 843.08, which outlaws “false personation.” While a lot of people are under the impression that impersonating a police officer is a specific crime, the statute criminalizes many other types of impersonations, as well.
Under the statute, it is illegal when someone impersonates one of the following professions:
- A firefighter,
- A sheriff,
- A Florida Highway Patrol official,
- A Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official,
- A Department of Financial Services official,
- An officer of the Department of Corrections,
- A correctional probation officer,
- A deputy sheriff,
- A Florida state attorney (or assistant state attorney),
- A Florida statewide prosecutor (or assistant statewide prosecutor),
- A state attorney investigator,
- A coroner,
- A police officer,
- An investigator or special agent for the Florida Lottery,
- A beverage enforcement agent,
- A watchman (or security officer),
- A member of Florida’s Commission on Offender Review, or any administrative aide or supervisor for the Commission on Offender Review,
- A Department of Law Enforcement employee or representative, or
- A federal law enforcement agent
and either a) takes it upon himself or herself to act as one of the above officials, or b) requires another person to provide aid or assistance to him or her in a matter relating to the duty of one of the above professions.
Violating the statute is ordinarily considered a third-degree felony. However, if the impersonation takes place while the offender is committing felony, then the offense is considered a second-degree felony. (The higher the degree of a felony, the more serious the charge.) And if the felony causes another person to die, or to become injured, then the offender is guilty of a first-degree felony.
Have You Been Charged With False Personation?
If you or someone you know has been charged with false personation, it is imperative to consult an attorney. False personation is a felony, and can carry with it a substantial prison sentence.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry is a former prosecutor, who has spent years representing clients in a wide variety of criminal cases. If you would like to speak to him about your case, you can call or email his office today.