Sussex County Official Misconduct Lawyers
Our Seasoned Criminal Attorneys Offer Zealous Defense Against Official Misconduct Charges in Warren County, NJ
The potential penalties for a conviction of official misconduct in Sussex or Warren County include a mandatory prison sentence, job loss, and withholding of pension benefits. These harsh consequences are imposed in addition to the general sentencing aspects of the criminal code because official misconduct is a white-collar crime that pertains to the violation of trust that is attached to governmental positions. Thus, if you are charged with official misconduct, you have a lot to lose and should not hesitate to call the experienced criminal defense team at The Tormey Law Firm.
Our seasoned defense practice boasts decades of legal experience – gained by litigating cases for both the defense and prosecution – and now our attorneys apply their training and expertise with the sole task of zealously defending our clients. If you’re facing official misconduct charges in Montague, Hardwick, Stillwater, Franklin, Lafayette, or neighboring towns in Sussex and Warren County, NJ, it’s vital to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on our team. Call us at 973-755-169 for a free initial case evaluation today.
Public Service and Official Misconduct Violations in New Jersey
Official misconduct is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2, which states that a public servant is guilty of official misconduct when with a purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or deprive another of a benefit: a. He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized, or he is committing such act in an unauthorized manner; or b. He knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.
Official misconduct is committed when a public servant does something with the intent to get some benefit or to prevent another person from obtaining a benefit. The act committed must be related to their office and be considered unauthorized, or they refrain from performing an action required by law as an inherent nature of their position.
The most common types involve exceeding official capacity, when a public servant goes outside the scope of their powers for their own or someone else’s benefit. Known as refraining from duty, it is considered official misconduct if a public servant intentionally avoids a certain duty or task. The unauthorized exercise of official functions is also official misconduct. Thus, any public servant or governmental employee who misuses their governmental position to benefit themselves or another is committing official misconduct. One common example of official misconduct is the solicitation of a bribe.
Degrees and Dollar Values of Official Misconduct in NJ Law
Official misconduct is a second degree crime when the obtained benefit or intent to be obtained surpasses $200. If the benefit obtained or sought to be obtained, or of which another is deprived or sought to be deprived, is of a value of $200.00 or less, the offense of official misconduct is a crime of the third degree.
Sentencing Parameters for Official Misconduct
The general sentencing guidelines in New Jersey set forth that the penalties for a second degree crime include a prison sentence of five to ten years as well as a fine of up to $150,000. It carries a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000, plus any restitution that must be paid. However, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.5 further establishes that a person who serves or has served as a public officer or employee under the government of this State, or any political subdivision thereof, who is convicted of a crime that involves or touches such office or employment as set forth in subsection b. of this section, shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment without eligibility for parole as follows: for a crime of the fourth degree, the mandatory minimum term shall be one year; for a crime of the third degree, two years; for a crime of the second degree, five years; and for a crime of the first degree, ten years; unless the provisions of any other law provide for a higher mandatory minimum term.
If the benefit is less than $200, it is a third degree offense, with a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $15,000, and possible restitution. When the benefit received is not monetary, the offense is of the second degree.
Potential Professional Consequences of Official Misconduct
Professionally, a conviction for official misconduct can lead to being suspended, demoted, or fired. It can also mean the individual can no longer run for public office, which could end their career in public service entirely. In New Jersey, with a conviction for official misconduct, all pension benefits could be lost. For those who started their careers in public service and haven’t ever worked in the private sector, this can lead to financial ruin when they reach retirement age.
Potential Personal Consequences of Official Misconduct
Personally, a charge of this nature, especially for a public figure, can destroy a person’s reputation, business relationships, personal friendships, and even family ties. The allegations can cause public scrutiny and unwanted attention from the media, which can affect the individual and their family. Also, the statute of limitations for this crime is seven years, so even when the individual has changed jobs or is no longer elected, prosecution can occur for prior illicit behaviors.
Proving the Elements of Official Misconduct Cases
Official misconduct occurs when a public servant acts to gain benefit for themselves or another or to keep someone else from benefiting from something. This means committing an unauthorized act outside their official functions or refraining from an action they are obligated to perform as a duty of their service. The State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was a public servant when the misconduct was committed. Secondly, they committed an act that they were not authorized to do in their official position, or they refrained from acting despite it being a part of the duties of their office. Lastly, their actions or inactions were motivated to benefit themselves or someone else. In some cases, the State must prove its purpose was to cause someone injury or prevent another from obtaining some benefit.
Key Terminology in Cases Involving a Breach of Public Trust
A public servant is a government officer or employee. This includes public employees, such as those who work in a branch, agency, or sub-division of the state. An “act” has to be within the confines of the public servant’s duties. It does not have to be criminal in nature. The public servant must have knowledge of the act and that its execution was unauthorized. Also, if they refrained from acting, it is official misconduct if it was done in an unauthorized manner.
There must be a connection between the public servant’s official duties and the act of misconduct. Not all acts a public servant does are linked to their official duties. A knowledge of duty means the public servant acted with forethought and knew their actions were unauthorized. The State must prove that a duty obligated the accused to act or refrain from acting, referencing a code of conduct, regulations, or some other document of public reference that would have been available to the accused before the alleged misconduct.
Benefit means an advantage or gain, including monetary benefits. This includes benefits to other people or entities besides the public servant. Harm refers to a disadvantage or loss to another person or entity that is of interest to the public servant.
Possible Defenses in Official Misconduct Cases
The act was done in a private setting. For example, if a school board member is arrested in a sting operation involving counterfeit designer bags and shoes, their arrest is unrelated to position or the power held therein. The arrest for selling counterfeit goods may stand, but it is not official misconduct.
If the statute of limitations of seven years has passed, the State cannot continue with the case. If the defendant was unaware that their actions were unauthorized, their defense lawyer could move for a dismissal.
PTI as an Option For Official Misconduct Charges
If the defendant is charged with a third-degree offense, they may be eligible for PTI. Those charged with official misconduct in the second degree are not eligible.
Belvidere Official Misconduct Defense Attorneys can Prepare Your Defense
Because of the enhanced punishments that apply to a conviction for official misconduct, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference. Being accused of official misconduct is a felony that can ruin your reputation and career. There are complexities to being a public servant unseen in the private sector. Misunderstandings can cause mistakes to unwittingly be made. You need a knowledgeable, qualified defense attorney on your side to help you face these charges.
Our knowledgeable team of criminal lawyers knows how stressful it is to be accused of such a serious crime. We have abundant resources to create a sophisticated strategy in your defense in Hopatcong, Newton, Frankford, Andover, Sparta, Wantage, Mansfield, and throughout New Jersey. From the moment we begin your investigation, we examine all options and facts of your case to create the best defense for you. If you have been accused of official misconduct, contact us today online or by calling (973) 755-1695 to start building your defense.