Public corruption is a type of criminal act that has a very broad range. This involves the corruption of public officials. Since there is a serious impact on the nation’s democracy when officials are involved in corruption, it’s taken very seriously in court. This is a federal offense that will warrant a great deal of investigation. Because of how much evidence is required to prove the pattern of corruption, investigations might last for years before charges are ever brought against a public official.
There are special units that are tasked with investigating public corruption alone. Instead of investigating multiple different types of crime like most law enforcement entities, these people specialize in corruption cases. Prosecutors employ these teams to help put together cases against public officials ranging from local city council members to state governors. The Public Integrity Section is one of the units that works on corruption cases.
Sometimes the cases that are investigated lead to charges against high profile people like mayors, governors, and senators. But it’s more common for public corruption cases to be small enough that they don’t gain national attention. These typically involve corruption at the municipal level by government officials who either work in local offices or work in one of the city’s departments.
When a corruption case doesn’t involve a political figure, a public integrity unit is used to investigate.
For the crime of public corruption to be committed, a local, state, or federal official must have broken the public’s trust or abused their power. This crime can also be committed by people in the private sector who are employed by the government or who handle sensitive government information. The law is intentionally broad so that different kinds of corruption can be appropriately handled.
Government officials might violate laws by asking for, demanding, soliciting, or accepting a bribe in exchange for using their position to further someone else’s goals.
This is a white collar crime since it occurs in a corporate environment. Instead of being its own crime, this is a category of criminal offense that includes specific actions like embezzlement, extortion, fraud, money laundering, and illegal kickbacks. It is also possible for corruption to occur when a person has an illegal conflict of interest in their job.
Conflicts of interest can be complex. In some cases, they can come with criminal penalties. Two criminal statutes have to do with conflicts of interest. You need to be familiar with the rules and regulations regarding conflicts of interest, or you might end up in hot water. For example, it’s a conflict of interest to have insider knowledge about the stock market that you use when making your investments.
There are also cases in which a federal employee might be investigated for a case like bribery, making false statements, or wage fraud. Public integrity units investigate federal employees the same way they investigate other non-political entities.
If a federal contractor engages in corruption like bid rigging, they might be faced with criminal charges from the DOJ. Bid rigging allows a company to get federal contracts at a higher price than they would otherwise pay. In essence, it’s a way of manipulating the market to get extra income.
There are ways in which state officials might abuse their power. Federal prosecutors might bring charges like campaign finance violations against a state official. In addition, any state official can be subject to charges if they are alleged to have used their power to solicit bribes. This is an abuse of their office. In these cases, prosecutors also often look for ways to charge people with obstruction of justice, fraud, and conspiracy.
You will never be charged with “public corruption” as an offense. Instead, you will be charged with something specific related to corruption. Federal law enforcement entities might use the Hobbs Act as part of their case. There are also codes like the RICO Act that prevent racketeering. Prosecutors will examine the evidence and decide which crimes they’re most likely to get a conviction for. In the vast majority of cases, you will be accused of multiple crimes at once.
If you believe that you are being investigated for any type of public corruption, it’s vital to get in contact with a lawyer right away. They can gather information about what the prosecutors are doing and what the evidence against you is. If you are charged, your lawyer can help you through the process to make sure that your rights are respected.
It doesn’t matter how high profile you are. The investigation and trial process will be the same for you as it would for any other US citizen. You won’t be given preferential treatment because of your public office or financial status. But corruption cases do have some unique aspects that should be fully examined by a lawyer.
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