What is the Law on 'Abuse of authority' in Tennessee and What are the Punishments for it?
Governments should have a long-term view while passing laws because it may not be possible for them to make amendments to existing laws or bring in new laws on a frequent basis. Every government thinks and aims that the welfare measures they take percolate down and reach those who very much need of them. But if the public servants, officers, or employees abuse their authority, the benefits will not reach the rightful people.
These officers may pass on the benefits to undeserving people or they may try to exploit the gullible folks for getting an unfair advantage. This will ultimately derail all the efforts of the governments in ensuring that the right people get the fruits of their measures. That is the reason countries including the USA have enacted laws for dealing with those who abuse their authority. Not only the Federal government but even the governments of the states have put in place laws for handling the crimes that are related to abuse of authority.
Who are Those Who Can Commit the Crime of Abuse of Authority?
In general, public servants, employees, and officers, and legislators have a proneness to commit the crime of abusing their authority. But these people forget the fact that they can face serious consequences by committing this crime because by doing so, they violate the public trust. Some of the consequences are removed from their position, censure, jail or prison terms, fines, etc. In the case of legislators, they can be permanently disqualified from entering into the fray or holding state positions.
Abusing of authority can be of various degrees and hence, the severity of the punishments also differs. Similarly, every state of the USA view such crimes differently and therefore, the laws laid down by the states vary as well. Let us now look at the laws on "abuse of authority" in Tennessee.
What is Abusing of Authority?
- If a public servant or employee knowingly has the intention of obtaining a benefit or of harming another person, if he or she takes action relating to his or her employment or office, and if the action taken is an unauthorized exercise of his or her official position and power, then it is nothing but abuse of authority.
- If a particular action of a public servant or employee clearly shows that he or she is exceeding his or her official power, it is also abuse of authority.
- If a public servant or employee does not perform a duty that he or she has to legally perform in his or her official employment or position, he or she is said to commit the crime of abusing his or her authority.
- Similarly, if a public servant or employee violates laws related to his or her official position or employment, that is also viewed as an abuse of authority.
- If the public servant receives or solicits any benefit that the law does not authorize, he or she is guilty of having committed the crime of abusing his or her authority.
Categorization of Abuse-of-Authority Crimes.
- According to Tennessee laws, taking bribes also belongs to the "abuse of authority" crime group. Therefore, this crime has been put under Class B felonies: Those who commit this crime will permanently be disqualified from holding any public position.
Class B felonies will attract a punishment of imprisonment for a period between 8 years and 30 years and a fine of an amount up to $25,000.
- If a public employee or an officer buys or sells offices using his authority, he or she is considered to be committing a Class C felony. Punishments for Class C felonies are imprisonment for a period between 3 and 15 years and a fine of an amount not exceeding $10,000.
- If a public servant, officer, or an employee unlawfully solicit or takes compensation for performing his or her official duties, he is committing a Class E felony crime. Punishments awarded to those who commit these felony crimes are imprisonment for a period between one and six years and a fine of an amount up to $3,000.
- If an employee or an officer holding a public office engages in some types of official misconducts that may result in their removal from their official position, they are said to commit Class A misdemeanors. For those who commit these misdemeanors, the punishments are imprisonment for a period not exceeding 11 months and 29 days and a fine of an amount that does not exceed $2,500.
- If a public servant, officer, or an employee misuses official information by abusing his or her authority, he or she is guilty of having committed a Class B misdemeanor. This may result in removal from his or her official position. Punishments for such misdemeanors are a jail term for a period up to six months and a fine of an amount up to $500.
But in all the above cases, the courts have the discretion of deciding on the punishments.