Lexington Public Corruption Lawyer
What is a public corruption crime?
Public corruption crimes are those that involve abuse of power by elected officials, obstruction of justice, or any attempt to corrupt a public process. At common law, most offenses falling under this hearing were charged as obstruction of justice. While this remains a viable offense today in South Carolina, many specific acts now have their own individual statutes.
Depending on the facts of the case, public corruption crimes may be prosecuted by the solicitor's office or the South Carolina Attorney General's Office. In many cases, the law enforcement investigation is conducted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) either alone or in conjunction with local authorities.
If you or a family member is under investigation or has been charged with a public corruption crime, please contact a Lexington criminal lawyer at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC for a confidential case evaluation. There is no charge or obligation for your first meeting. Two key areas we serve include Lexington and Columbia, though we also serve other areas in South Carolina.
Common Corruption Charges in South Carolina
Bribery, charged under S.C. Code §8-13-705, is the crime of giving or offering anything of value to a public official, government employee or elected representative with the intent to induce or influence them to take, or not to take, any certain action. Conversely any request by a public official, government employee or elected representative to receive an item of value could also be categorized as bribery. Bribery also encompasses offenses where one attempts to pursue a witness to testify a certain way or to fail to appear before an administrative body, committee or court. Bribery is a felony that carries up to ten years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions.
Embezzlement of Public Funds
Embezzlement of public funds is the crime of stealing, converting, or fraudulently diverting any public funds by one to whom control over the funds was entrusted. This offense is very similar to breach of trust with fraudulent intent, but with the requirement that it involves the public's money. There is no requirement that one actually be a public official or employed by the government to be charged or convicted of this offense.
Under S.C. Code §16-13-210, embezzlement of public funds is a felony that carries up to ten years' imprisonment and a fine. Anyone convicted of this offense is disqualified from holding public office. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions.
Misconduct of a Public Official
Misconduct of a public official is a crime involving the criminal dereliction of duty by a public official due to corruption, drunkenness, misconduct, or negligence. It can also occur by failure to comply with any statutory duty of the public office.
Misconduct of a public official is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $1,000 fine under S.C. Code §8-1-80. Anyone convicted of this offense automatically forfeits their office. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions.
Obstruction of Justice
Obstruction of justice is a common law offense punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment. It is the offense of taking any intentional action which prevents, impedes, or interferes with the administration of justice. Many of the specific statutory offenses provided in this website's public corruption section are codifications of this common law charge. Actions which constitute obstruction of justice that are without a specific statute are still prosecuted under the common law. This offense is prosecuted in general sessions.
Providing False Information
Giving false information to a law enforcement officer or providing false information to a law enforcement officer is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $200 (plus court costs). Charged under S.C. Code §16-17-725, it is the offense of falsely filing a police report, making up a fire or medical emergency, or providing a false identity to police or for the purposes of avoiding an arrest or criminal prosecution.
Misprision is an offense whereby one can be charged for neglecting to stop a felony from being committed, or by failing to bring a defendant to justice by one who was not actually assisting or part of the felony. It carries a sentence of up to ten years' imprisonment and is tried in the court of general sessions.
Intimidation of Court Officials
Intimidation of court officials, S.C. Code §16-9-340, is the offense of attempting to intimidate or threaten a judge, juror, witness or any other court official in regards to their official duties. It is a felony punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions.
Perjury is the offense of knowingly providing false or misleading sworn testimony. If the testimony is given in an open proceeding it is a felony punishable by up to five years' imprisonment under S.C. Code §16-9-10. If the testimony is given in writing only, then it carries up to six months' imprisonment. Perjury charges are ordinarily tried in the court of general sessions. Perjury may also be dealt with by the court through imposition of contempt of court sanctions.
Criminal Contempt of Court
Criminal contempt of court stems from the authority of the court to punish those who either violate the standards of decorum demanded by the court or who willfully violate the court's orders. Criminal contempt differs from civil contempt in that in criminal contempt the defendant is sentenced to a definite set of time that they cannot automatically purge by subsequent remedial conduct. For example, individuals who are held in contempt for outbursts during a trial are held in criminal contempt, whereas individuals who are held in contempt for failure to pay child support are held in civil contempt.
Judges in South Carolina have the authority to sentence a defendant to a term of imprisonment of up to six months without a formal trial. Defendants can be summarily sentenced if the improper conduct occurs in the presence of the court. If the sentence is to be longer than six months, the defendant must be apprised of his right to a jury trial. In all cases a defendant has a right to be told exactly what conduct the court considers contempt and to be heard prior to being imprisoned.
Resisting arrest is the offense for willfully resisting or assaulting a law enforcement arrest while that officer is performing a lawful arrest or service of legal process. It carries a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment. If a deadly weapon was used there is a two-year minimum prison sentence for those who are convicted as charged. This crime is charged under S.C. Code §16-9-320 & S.C. Code §16-3-625, and depending on the exact circumstances resulting in the charge there may be defenses under the law, even if there is proof of an altercation with a law enforcement officer. This offense is tried in the court of general sessions.