Public Corruption Charges in Florida
Some white collar crime trials receive little media attention and so don’t have dramatic repercussions for defendants when it comes to their personal or business reputations, especially if they are not public figures. Public corruption does not typically fall under this category, as most defendants who are accused of this offense are well-known in their communities. For this reason, those who are charged with public corruption have a lot at stake, including not only jail time and fines, but also permanent damage to their reputations. Being represented by an experienced attorney can limit this damage, so if you have been accused of involvement in a public corruption scheme, it is crucial to speak with a white collar crime lawyer who can defend your interests.
Bribing a Public Official
Accusations of public corruption almost always involve allegations of bribery, which under Florida law, includes giving, offering, or promising a benefit to a public servant with the intent to influence that individual’s decision. Similarly, public officials can be charged with this offense under Florida law for requesting, soliciting, accepting, or even agreeing to accept some type of benefit in exchange for the performance of a specific act or omission that falls within their official duties.
However, a person can only be convicted of this offense if prosecutors can prove that:
- The bribe was knowingly or intentionally offered or accepted; and
- The parties intended the exchange to influence the performance or omission of any act within the official’s discretion.
It’s important to note that it is not necessary to prove that an official was actually qualified to perform as promised, that he or she had already assumed office, that the public official had jurisdiction over the matter, or that his or her official action was necessary to achieve the other person’s goal in order to obtain a conviction for public corruption.
What Qualifies as a “Benefit”?
When most people think about bribery charges, they imagine that the case involves allegations of accepting or offering a monetary benefit, or cash. While Florida’s understanding of the word “benefit” in this context does include pecuniary gains, it also covers anything regarded as a gain or an advantage, which could include:
- Any act that is beneficial to a third party in whose welfare he or she is interested;
- Commercial interest; and
- Anything of economic value.
In fact, dinners, tickets to sporting events, and campaign contributions have even been found to qualify as a benefit when it comes to public corruption charges. Whether or not something qualifies as a benefit has important repercussions in these cases, as conviction for this offense comes with serious consequences. In most cases, public corruption is charged as a second degree felony, which means that defendants face up to 15 years imprisonment for each count raised against them if they are convicted.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
Public corruption charges are some of the most serious white collar crime charges that a person can face, so if you are being investigated for bribery or a related offense, please don’t hesitate to call dedicated white collar crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in Miami at 305-670-9919 to begin formulating a strong defense.