When you are a public servant, your state court holds you to a strict code of justice. Breaking the trust of those you serve could result in official misconduct charges. In New Jersey, that penalty of those charges can be quite severe. Find out everything that you need to know about official misconduct in New Jersey.
What Is Official Misconduct?
Every state has different laws regarding the misconduct of public officials. In New Jersey, only public servants can face official misconduct charges. This means that all of the following individuals can find themselves in court for official misconduct:
- Any officer of the government
- A government employee
- A juror in a court case
- An advisor or consultant for the government
As long as an individual is working in a way that relates to the government, then she can face official misconduct charges. The only exception is a witness in a court case. If you were suspended from your duties at the time of an incident, you could still face charges. It’s also worth noting that you could face charges as an accomplice even if you are not a public servant.
In New Jersey, official misconduct charges can occur when a public servant acts corruptly in a way that benefits him or deprives someone else of a right or privilege. In some cases, he merely makes it more difficult for an individual to get a right or privilege.
For someone to get a conviction of official misconduct, his actions must meet two main criteria. First, there needs to be proof that no one authorized his action or that he acted in an unauthorized way. Secondly, there needs to be evidence that he knew his actions were unauthorized or that he acted in an unauthorized way. A lack of knowledge lessens the charges.
If a pubic servant commits a crime that is a private action, then it is not official misconduct. While this could warrant other charges, it does not fall under the umbrella of official misconduct.
Proving Guilt of Official Misconduct Charges
Before a court convicts you of official misconduct, the prosecutor needs to prove several details. If he fails to do so, then you are innocent. Understanding the requirements for official misconduct can help you prevent committing a crime. Additionally, it can help you understand how to fight the charges. Here are the five necessities for a conviction:
- You are a public servant
- You acted out of personal gain or with the intent of injuring or depriving someone else of a benefit
- The act you committed relates in some way to your position as a public servant
- No one authorized your action
- You knew that you had no authorization to act in the way that you did
If a prosecutor can prove that you are guilty of all five requirements, then a judge could convict you. However, the prosecutor could also convince the court to convict you for failing to perform a duty for which you are responsible. For example, failing to commit your official duties could lead to official misconduct.
If you get convicted, then the stakes are high. You could serve jail time and the court could require you to pay high fines.
Fighting the Charges
If you want to fight your official misconduct charges, then you need a lawyer. Your lawyer will meet with you and hear the specifics of your case. Then, he will come up with a defense. That defense will be specific to your case. However, there are a few common defenses.
For example, many lawyers find success in proving that the defendant did not know that he acted in an unauthorized way. If there is any way to show that you had no knowledge of your crime, then your lawyer could convince a judge to dismiss the charges.
Another common defense is to seek a reduction of charges. As a second degree crime, official misconduct charges have severe penalties. However, your lawyer could convince the court to reduce the charges. If the action involved $200 or less, then the crime is a third degree crime. This greatly benefits you. However, this defense does not help you if you intended to injure another individual. In cases that involve injury, the crime will always be a second degree offense.
If you committed a crime in the past, then you might not face legal consequences. The statute of limitations on official misconduct charges is seven years. After that time, the court cannot prosecute you.
Finding a Lawyer
With the right lawyer, you might be able to beat your charges. However, not every lawyer is the right one for the job. Official misconduct is a very specific crime. You should look for a lawyer who has experience in representing public servants. If you hire a lawyer with experience, then you improve your odds of a good outcome. Your lawyer can advise you on what you need to do to fight the charges successfully.