What is the Law on 'Abuse of authority' in Mississippi and What are the Punishments for it?
Abuse of Authority is not defined as such by the Mississippi Code. However; Chapter 4 under Title 25 of the Mississippi Code describes Ethics in Government. Article 3 of the Chapter explains the Conflict of Interest and Improper Use of Office. Abuse of Authority falls within the purview of Article 3.
There are also other chapters in Mississippi Code that describe the abuse of authority by public officials.
Let us examine all the laws that deal with abuse of authority in the Mississippi Code.
What is Abuse of Authority under Chapter 4 of the Mississippi Code?
Section 25-4-105 lists certain actions that an individual in one’s official capacity as a public servant should not violate. Violation of law results in a penalty for the offender.
According to Section 25-4-105
- A public servant shall not use his or her official authority to obtain or make an attempt to obtain, a personal pecuniary benefit other than the lawful compensation due to him or her;
- A public servant shall not use his or her official authority to obtain or make an attempt to obtain, any benefit that is pecuniary of nature, for a relative, or a business with which he or she is associated.
- An individual may not, knowingly, disclose or use information obtained as a result of the individual’s official capacity, or because of being employed, as a public servant, in any manner that could result in a benefit, pecuniary of nature, to the individual, any relative, or any other individual, if such information is not public information or has not been made public.
Penalty for Violating Section 25-4-105
- Any elected or non-elected public servant, if found guilty through clear and convincing evidence, of violating Section 25-4-105, may be censured by the Ethics Commission or may be made liable to pay a civil fine not exceeding $ 10,000, or both.
The Commission may also make a recommendation to the Circuit Court for Hinds County to remove the elected public servant from office. In case of a non-elected public servant, the Commission may recommend that the individual be suspended or removed from office, or be subjected to a pay reduction or demotion.
Other Mississippi Laws Governing Abuse of Authority
Section 97-11-31 deals with Embezzlement; Fraud Committed in Public Office. According to this section:
- An officer, or individual underemployment, in any public office, if found guilty of committing any embezzlement or fraud, then the offender shall be committed to the Department of Corrections for a period not exceeding 10 years, or the individual shall be fined an amount of up to $5,000, or both.
Section 97-11-25 deals with Embezzlement; Officers, Trustees and Public Employees Converting Property to Own Use.
- Violation of the above section happens when an individual employed in a public office or engaged in public employment, or any other individual committing oneself to perform an action for others and entrusted with money or any business by them does the following:
o Converts to his personal use any money or thing of a value obtained in the capacity of the individual’s position or employment in the public office; or
o Refuses to deliver money or any item of value thus obtained when required to do so lawfully and according to official obligation.
The term “employed in a public office or engaged in public employment”, includes individuals in the following, and others like positions:
- State Officer
- County Officer
- District Officer
- County Subdivision Officer
- City, Town or Village Officer
- Notary Public
- Any individual holding a position of authority, or underemployment, in a public office
- Guardian or Administrator
- Trustee of an Express Trust
- A receiver, Commissioner or Master
- Solicitor or Attorney at Law
- Bank or a Collecting Agent
- Upon conviction, the individual shall be committed to the Department of Corrections for a period not exceeding 20 years or shall be fined an amount not exceeding $5,000.