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 with a
criminal defense lawyer. 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
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