Public Corruption

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Mary Martin

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Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023Fact Checked

Public corruption involves a breach of public trust and/or abuse of position by federal, state, or local officials and their private sector accomplices. By broad definition, a government official, whether elected, appointed or hired, violates federal law when he/she asks, demands, solicits, accepts, or agrees to receive anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of their official duties.

One of the most high-profile forms of public corruption is bribery of a public official. Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 201 provides the statutory framework for bribery prosecutions. Federal legislators are continuing to work on legislation that increases penalties for public corruption and that attempts to close loopholes created by previous legislation.

Ethics violations occur at all levels of government (local, state, and federal) and includes allegations of judicial, legislative, regulatory, contract, and law enforcement corruption. Law enforcement corruption accounts for more than one-third of the current corruption investigations. These cases typically involve law enforcement officers accepting money to protect (or facilitate) drug-trafficking and organized criminal activity.

Breaches of the public trust can impact everything, from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected, to verdicts handed down in courts of law, to the quality of our roads and schools.

Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities—behind only terrorism, espionage, and cyber crimes. Federal cases of public corruption are prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Individual states also prosecute cases of public corruption, including charges of bribery, receiving unlawful gratuities, and misuse of confidential information. Private criminal defense lawyers often specialize in either state or federal cases.

State court penalties for public corruption range from six months in prison and a $1,000 for misdemeanor misuse of confidential information to a prison term of 8 years and up to a $250,000 fine for felony bribery. A federal offense can likewise garner serious penalties, which may include thousands of dollars and/or time in federal prison.

If you are under investigation for public corruption or face charges for violation of state or federal laws, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. If you cannot afford your own lawyer, the government (federal, state, or local) must provide one for you, called a “public defender.” If you can afford your own attorney, you might consider hiring a private criminal defense lawyer. A private criminal defense attorney will bring not only a wealth of expertise regarding the criminal justice system to your case, he or she may also bring the objectivity and robust representation of an advocate who is not entrenched in public service.

Case Studies: Public Corruption

Case Study 1: John’s Bribery Scandal

John, a high-ranking government official, finds himself embroiled in a bribery scandal. He is accused of accepting illicit payments in exchange for using his influence in performing official duties. This case highlights the legal framework under Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 201, and the consequences faced by individuals involved in public official bribery.

Case Study 2: Sarah’s Law Enforcement Corruption

Sarah, a law enforcement officer, becomes entangled in corruption when she accepts money to protect drug-trafficking activities. This case sheds light on the prevalence of law enforcement corruption and its impact on combating organized crime. It emphasizes the need for accountability and integrity within the law enforcement sector.

Case Study 3: Mark’s Breach of Public Trust

Mark, a trusted public official, breaches the public’s trust by engaging in unethical practices. This case showcases the wide-ranging consequences of public corruption, affecting border security, community safety, judicial proceedings, and essential public services. It underscores the importance of upholding ethical standards and maintaining public trust.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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