What Is Public Corruption? 

Public corruption may not be a familiar term to you, but it costs the United States billions of dollars each year. It happens at the local, state, and federal levels of government as it undermines the foundation that our country was built upon. Continue reading to learn more about public corruption and its consequences.  

Public Corruption 

Public corruption is a breach of public trust that typically occurs when federal, state, or local officials and their private-sector co-conspirators abuse their position.  It is one of the FBIs top criminal investigative priorities in the United States.  Corrupt public officials can undermine our country’s national security, our overall safety, the public trust, and confidence in the U.S. government, wasting billions of dollars.

Public corruption includes any illicit activity carried out by those in public service. The public’s trust in government suffers greatly when public officials succumb to public corruption, including bribery, illegal lobbying, extortion, graft, influence peddling, no-bid contracts, and other corrupt acts. 

A public official is any person elected, appointed, employed, or otherwise having a duty to maintain honest and faithful public service. Most violations occur when the official solicits, accepts, receives, or agrees to receive something of value in return for influence in the performance of an official act.The categories of public corruption investigated by the FBI include legislative, judicial, regulatory, contractual, and law enforcement.

Examples of Public Corruption 

Some common forms of public corruption include: 

  • Misuse of Government Funds: This is also known as graft and involves the misdirecting of public funds by a government official to benefit private interests. 

Punishments for Public Corruption 

Public corruption is taken seriously by the government and the punishments in place reflect that. Possible punishments for public corruption include: 

Prison–Depending on the severity of the crime, prison terms for public corruption crimes can be anywhere from a few months to 20 years. For example, a bribery conviction can lead to 15 years in prison, where giving or receiving an illegal gratuity can result in a two year prison term. 

Probation–Probation is an alternative to jail that a judge can sentence someone to for public corruption. There are rules and guidelines someone on probation must follow, as well as meeting with a probation officer frequently. If the guidelines are not followed, a prison term would be the punishment. 

Restitution–A judge can order an offender to pay back the money they obtained illegally. This can be in the millions of dollars. 

Fines–Anyone convicted of a public corruption offense is liable for substantial fines. Fines are determined by the amount that was illegally obtained, but can reach millions of dollars. 

Consequences of Public Corruption 

The United States government takes public corruption crimes very seriously. Public corruption tears at the foundation of communities and national security. Elected or appointed officials are put in their roles with a tremendous amount of trust by the people they represent. When that trust and integrity is threatened, the stability of the government is put in jeopardy. 

No trust in Government: Trust in the government leads to cooperation and solidarity in a community. When corruption strips trust away, communities do not function as they should. 

Takes funds away from essential public services: Corruption robs citizens of equal access to vital services, denying the right to quality healthcare, public safety, and education.

Decreases economic growth: Corruption discourages investment, limits economic growth, and alters the composition of government spending, often to the detriment of future economic growth.

Weakens the judicial system: Corruption decreases public trust in justice and weakens the capacity of judicial systems to guarantee the protection of human rights, and it affects the tasks and duties of the judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals.

Public corruption can weaken a city, state, or nation. The focus on prosecuting those who commit public corruption crimes is intense and unrelenting. If you or someone you know has been accused of public corruption, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to find out your rights. 

Do you need further information about public corruption?  Reach out to the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot to learn more.