Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

(Soundbite of "Dragnet")

Mr. JOHN STEPHENSON (Narrator): Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

ROBERT SMITH, host:

So an assistant to an California assemblyman was pulled over by the cops on suspicion of drunk driving. The aide shows the officer his badge, an honorary badge, to try and get out of the DUI charge. No dice. California's attorney general's office starts to look into the case.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

So who gets an honorary badge and just what is it good for? Well, lots of people use it as a credential - county supervisors, courtroom clerks, dog catchers, to name a few.

SMITH: But can you use one to get out of a ticket? We checked with Gareth Lacy(ph) with California Attorney General's Office.

Mr. GARETH LACY (California Attorney General Office): No, you cannot use an honorary badge to get out of a ticket or to confer the image or to confer the association of being a peace officer or a law enforcement official.

BRAND: In fact, the attorney general's office is recalling its honorary badges because they look too much like a police officer's badge. The new one will say clearly not a police officer in big block letters.

Mr. LACEY: It should be pretty obvious. And that's really the point. I mean you just don't want people to be confused or to assume that something is a badge if you were to flash it quickly, and it's just a reasonable person test.

SMITH: So it's a sad day for mildly important civil servants in California. Their new badges won't be nearly as cool.

BRAND: If pulled over, they will have to use the immortal words from the Mel Brooks movie "Blazing Saddles."

SMITH: Badges? We don't need no stinking badges.

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