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Sentencing Guidelines- Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 10, 2024//

Sentencing Guidelines- Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 10, 2024//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Patrick Hancock

Case No.: 22-2614

Officials: Easterbrook, Hamilton, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines- Impersonation of a Law Enforcement Officer

Hancock pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon. His federal sentence was augmented on the basis of violating Indiana Code § 35-44.1-2-6, which criminalizes the impersonation of a law enforcement officer by civilians. Hancock contested his sentence on appeal, disputing the Sentencing Guidelines enhancement. The evidence substantiated the district court’s determination that Hancock portrayed himself as a police officer by donning various law enforcement-related items.

The district court applied a four-level enhancement to Hancock’s sentence, concluding that his attire sufficiently demonstrated, by a preponderance of evidence, the applicability of § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). Hancock received a 48-month prison term followed by three years of supervised release. The district court deviated from the Sentencing Guidelines range, citing Hancock’s involvement in “extreme conduct” and deeming a more severe penalty necessary to deter future criminal behavior.

The Seventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling. It dismissed Hancock’s assertion that he did not intend to mislead anyone at Costco into believing he was a law enforcement officer. Furthermore, the court rejected Hancock’s argument contesting the constitutionality of Indiana’s false impersonation statute under the First Amendment. It determined that the statute was narrowly crafted to serve the government’s significant public interest in safeguarding public safety and preserving the reputation of law enforcement.

Affirmed.

Decided 06/05/24

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