WHAT IS OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT?
The security director for a city parking authority finds out that guards were stealing parking fees and demands a share to not report the thefts. This is Official Misconduct.
New Jersey has a sad reputation for corruption and the state now has one of the toughest corruption crime for anyone involved with official misconduct, as defined in New Jersey Statute 2C:30-2. This very broad law covers the simple improper action of a public official. Depending on the circumstances, a person could be charged with additional forms of theft, including Theft by Unlawful Taking – N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, Theft by Deception – N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4, Receiving Stolen Property – N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, Burglary – N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2, Forgery – N.J.S.A. 21-1.
The first element the prosecution would need to prove is that you were a “public servant.” New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 2C:27 1, defines this so broadly it covers practically every government employee, every legislators, every judges, every consultant, every advisor, and anyone else performing a governmental function. In one case, this applied to an unpaid volunteer firefighter because the firefighter performed a governmental function. Even if a person is not a public servant themselves, they can be convicted under this section if the Prosecution proves the person was an accomplice of a public servant.
The next element is that you did some improper action or you failed to do some required action. This action must have been part of your official duties. While not every improper action is official misconduct, the prosecution must prove you knew the action was unauthorized and unlawful. In fact, the action you are charged with does not even have to be a crime. You could be convicted of official misconduct, even if a jury finds you not guilty of all the other charges. For example, an unpaid firefighter was charged with causing false fire alarms. This is a third-degree crime; however, he was charged with official misconduct for doing the improper action relating to his government duties as a firefighter. The official misconduct was a second-degree crime and he was sentenced to state prison.
The final element of official misconduct is the requirement that your purpose in doing or not doing the required action was to benefit yourself or to injure someone else. In most cases, the benefit of taking money or property would be easy to understand. In one case, the law applied to an official who conducted an illegal strip-search to see someone naked. Finally, an unpaid volunteer firefighter was convicted of official misconduct for causing false alarms where his only “benefit” was, as the court wrote, “the joy of responding to fires as a volunteer firefighter.”
In order for the prosecution to convict you of Official Misconduct, they must prove the following elements:
- You were a public servant;
- You committed an act relating to your office knowing that it was unauthorized; and
- Your purpose in so acting was to benefit yourself or to injure someone else.
In New Jersey, the crime of Official Misconduct is a crime of the second-degree with a presumption of state prison. If the value of the benefit was less than $200, the official misconduct would be a crime of the third-degree. Remember, that if the benefit has no monetary value, then the charge is the second-degree crime.
In addition, this crime has a special sentencing enhancement under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.5. If you are convicted of a crime that “involves or touches” your government employment, the Judge must sentence you to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment without eligibility for parole. For a third-degree crime, you must serve two years in prison before you are eligible for parole. For a second-degree crime you must serve five years in prison before you are eligible for parole. You face a mandatory prison sentence for an action, which may have given you no monetary benefit.
PATTERN OF OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT
A separate crime is called Pattern of Official Misconduct, as defined in New Jersey Statute 2C:30-7. This crime requires only that you have committed two or more acts of Official Misconduct. This crime requires that the judge impose a separate sentence for the pattern as well as the official misconduct crimes.
For anyone charged with official misconduct or a pattern of official misconduct, the results may be disastrous. Not only will you lose your current position and, probably your benefits and pension, but a conviction can result in significant imprisonment.
Because of the significant consequences to a person charged with official misconduct, it is important to immediately hire a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as you are either investigated or charged with an offense. Hiring a former prosecutor who now practices official misconduct defense can make the difference between having a conviction and having the case dismissed. Please contact an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney about your official misconduct case.
HIRING AN EXPERIENCED NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY
Attorney Douglas Herring is a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who will help explain the official misconduct charges and help you fight your charges. Mr. Herring is a former prosecutor in State and Federal Court. He will review your case and work with you to determine a plan to give you the best defense possible. He will file motions for you in court and he will determine how to effectively argue your case to convince the prosecutor or the judge that the case is weak and the charges should be dismissed.
Mr. Herring handles cases in New Jersey Courts, including Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth, and Hunterdon counties. Mr. Herring will go to court with you and assist in getting you released from custody and explaining to the judge why you should not be held in jail. He can also assist in having a bail bondsman in court to facilitate an immediate release from custody. When you learn there is a New Jersey official misconduct case filed against you, please contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Douglas Herring for a free consultation. You can call our office at (888) 334-6344 or (732) 555-1234, (609) 555-1234, or (908) 555-1234, or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail. We are available every day of the year, 24 hours a day.
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