Recently 13 illegal immigrants wearing U.S. Marine uniforms and driving in a van that had U.S. government license plates were stopped at a border checkpoint in San Diego.  The 13 illegals were all dressed in marine uniforms with the name “Perez” on each.  Because the arrest involved marines, both NCIS and Border patrol were involved.  But what does it mean to impersonate a government official?  Is it illegal to dress up like you’re in the military during Halloween? 

What Kind Of Punishments Do You Get For Impersonating An Officer Or Government Official?

Depending on who is being impersonated, and for what end, plays a big role in what kind of punishment a person will receive.  For example, in Texas, impersonating a public service is a 3rd degree felony (which carries a minimum 2-10 year prison sentence and fines of up to $10,000), while two men were charged with impersonating Marine officers in 2005 and were only charged with a misdemeanor (they faced a maximum of 6 months in prison and  a $5,000 fine).  However, under federal law (10 U.S.C. Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772) a person is not allowed to wear a military uniform unless it is part of their job of (under 772(f) part of a “theatrical production” so long as it did not discredit the military.   

With the case at hand, the fact that these people were illegally here (many have already been deported), may point to a harsher punishment for the Americans involved.  As with most crimes, there are unique facts to be considered, such as where and how these government plates and uniforms were obtained.  If the person sold these plates and uniforms to the Americans (especially if they knew what they were being used for), for money, they are likely to face stiff federal penalties.  However, if the plates and uniforms were stolen, then the Americans are likely facing additional charges.