What is Official Misconduct in New Jersey?
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.
(1) You were a public servant;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.
(2) You committed an act relating to your office knowing that it was unauthorized;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.
(3) Your purpose in so acting was to benefit yourself or to injure someone else.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."
PenaltiesIn 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.