Many white collar crimes involve some form of identity theft or fraud. For example, in Texas it is a Class B misdemeanor to falsely identify oneself as a police officer. Basically, this covers someone possessing or displaying a law enforcement badge even though they are not actually a “peace officer” or reserve police officer.
Court: Law Only Requires Proof Defendant “Possessed” Fake Badge
The Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently addressed this particular type of white collar offense. The defendant in this case, Sauder v. State, met a Harris County law enforcement officer sometime around late 2014. The officer believed the defendant was a fellow peace officer. Specifically, the officer said the defendant displayed a badge and ID card indicating that he was a reserve officer with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
The officer said he and several colleagues would routinely meet up after work. The defendant was part of this group. The officer said he had “no reason” to question the defendant’s position as a reserve officer. But that changed in September 2015, when the officer and the defendant attended a funeral for another law enforcement officer. The officer said the defendant wore a suit to the funeral, as opposed to a dress uniform, as was common practice. The defendant told the officer his dress uniform was “torn or worn out,” which the officer said was unlikely given that “officers rarely wear their dress uniform.”
The officer followed up on his suspicions and eventually discovered that the defendant had provided a false name and identification. In fact, the defendant did not work in any capacity for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. The officer informed his superiors, who forwarded the matter to the Houston Police Department, which then notified the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors in Fort Bend County subsequently charged the defendant with the Class B misdemeanor of false identification as a police officer. A jury found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 180 days in jail plus a $2,000 fine.
On appeal, one of the defendant’s arguments was that the case should not have been tried in Fort Bend County. He argued the alleged crime occurred in Harris County, and that since prosecutors there did not charge him, it amounted to improper “forum shopping” for law enforcement to pursue charges in Fort Bend County.
The First District rejected this argument and upheld the defendant’s conviction. The appellate court explained that while the defendant’s regular socializing with the legitimate officers may have occurred in Harris County, the jury could still “infer” the law was broken in Fort Bend County as well. This was because the misdemeanor offense only requires proof that the defendant “possessed” false police identification, not that he actually displayed or used it. Given that the defendant lived in Fort Bend County, the First District said it was not much of a leap for the jury to assume the defendant possessed his false badge and ID there.
Speak with a Houston White Collar Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
Although many white collar crimes like the one described above are misdemeanors, they can still leave you with a permanent criminal record. That is why if you are charged with any such offense, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Galveston, League City or Houston. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need immediate legal advice or assistance. Call (281) 280-0100.