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What is the Law on 'Abuse of Authority' in Pennsylvania and What are the Punishments for it?

Abuse of authority is unfortunately not as rare as it should ideally be. When individuals gain too much power, they tend to start using their authority as a means to intimidate others and trow their own weight, rather than helping others and use their authority for good.

However, sometimes, individuals may go overboard in their use of authority as a way to make things work in their favor. When this happens, abuse of authority becomes an advantage and a holding point in order to make someone do the bidding of their boss. Abuse of authority can manifest itself in the following ways:

  1. Bullying- Those in power will usually use bullying as a tactic in order to victimize other people and make them do their bidding. This can occur in various ways, including sarcasm, mishandling staff, and intimidation.
  2. Manipulation- One of the main tactics used by people who abuse their authority is manipulating others to do their work for them, or be a part of some illegal activity they do not ant t partake in. This includes the likes of making false promises, emotionally manipulating them, or trying to belittle them.
Abuse of Authority Laws Pennsylvania

Punishment for Abuse of Authority

In the state of Pennsylvania, crimes are classified into felonies and misdemeanors, depending on the range of the crime, the number of people who were affected in some form by the abuse of authority, and the position or post of the person who committed the crime in question. Punishments for abuse of authority in Pennsylvania include the following:

Third Degree Felonies

Third-degree felonies are those crimes which directly involve the giving or taking of money by the individual themselves, directly from another person. These crimes include:

  • Giving or taking a bribe
  • Soliciting offers

A third-degree felony is punishable by a maximum prison time of 7 years, a maximum fine of up to $15,000, or both, depending on the crime that was committed and the people involved.

Second Degree Misdemeanor

Second-degree misdemeanors do not involve money, but rather, involve the individual abusing their authority in some other way, generally by means of coercing or influencing other people. Second-degree misdemeanors include the following:

Abuse of Authority Laws

  • False swearing in matters relating to official business.
  • Using threats or other means in order to change the course of a discussion of an office or a political discussion.
  • Threatening a judge or members of a jury in order to sway the decision of the court in one way or another.
  • Taking revenge against an official who wronged the individual in one way or another.

A second-degree misdemeanor holds a maximum prison sentence of 2 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both, depending on the crime.

Third Degree Misdemeanors

third-degree misdemeanors are those offenses in which the individual does not actually do anything illegal, but the threat of them doing something to harm an official in some way is prevalent and permeating. Third-degree misdemeanors include the following:

  • Using threats or other means or influence to delegate work in the office.
  • Making threats to change the course of an administrative or judicial hearing.

A third-degree misdemeanor holds with it a maximum prison time of a year, a maximum fine of up to $2,500, or both, depending on the crime.

Any person who is convicted of committing any crime which is in direct link with abuse of authority, such as embezzlement, extortion, bribery, fraudulent behavior, and illegal takeover of property, has to forfeit their office immediately after they are convicted.


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