What is the Law on Abuse of Authority in West Virginia and What are the Punishments for It?
Abuse of authority refers to ethical violations committed by people who hold positions of power. When a person is given a public office or other role involving authority, they are expected to maintain certain codes of conduct that enable them to take into consideration what is best for their employees as well as the State. Those that deliberately misuse their positions to obtain benefits for themselves or others at the expense of the people they are supposed to look after are guilty of abuse of authority.
West Virginia considers any form of abuse of authority to be a serious crime. Depending on the form of abuse of power that was committed, anyone convicted of such an act may be charged with a felony, a misdemeanor or administrative sanctions within the State.
What Constitutes an Abuse of authority in the State of West Virginia?
The term 'abuse of authority' covers broadly those areas of behavior where the power-holder deliberately misused the power and position that they were vested with for personal gain. A public officer that accepts a bribe, for example, is guilty of abuse of authority. Some other examples include providing incorrect or misleading information while filing statements, using threats or coercive techniques, misusing confidential information that the power-holder is privy to by virtue of their position, and more.
Those indulging in abusing their powers may commit crimes that belong to different categories under 'abuse of authority'. In such situations, they will be tried for all the crimes they have committed. If such a person committed criminal acts as well, then they may be tried separately for those as well.
What are the Punishments Related to Abuse of Authority in West Virginia?
The State of West Virginia clearly establishes which crimes are considered as abuse of authority, and what the punishments are for each crime. These include:
- If a person in a position of power has been found to be guilty of accepting bribes, then they are guilty of having committed a felony. The punishment for this crime is either incarceration for a period that is not less than one year, and not more than ten years, or the payment of fines that does not amount to more than $50,000, or both. Such a person will also be permanently disqualified from holding any position in the office.
- If a person has been found to have rewarded unlawful behavior, then they are guilty of having committed a misdemeanor. Such a person will have to spend a time in jail that is not less than three months and not more than one year, be asked to pay a fine that does not exceed $5000, or both.
- If a person delivers threats that are either official or political in nature, then they are guilty of a misdemeanor. Such a person will have to spend a period of time in jail that is not less than three months and not more than one year, pay a fine that does not exceed $5000, or both.
- Anyone found guilty of accepting prohibited gratuities or gifts or of trading in public office are guilty of having committed a misdemeanor. The punishment for this is either time to be spent in prison that is not less than three months and not more than one year, or they will have to pay a fine that falls between $50-10000, or both.
- Anyone found guilty of improper use of confidential information they derived as a virtue of their position of authority, or of prohibited representation before a commission, board or agency is guilty of having committed a misdemeanor. Such a person will have to either spend time in incarceration that is no more than six months, pay a fine that does not exceed $1000, or both.
- If a person knowingly and deliberately provides false information while submitting their statement, then they are guilty of having committed a misdemeanor. Such a person will either have to spend time in jail that is not more than one year, pay an amount in fines that is not greater than $1000, or both.
- If a person refuses to or fails to file their financial statement as required by law, they are guilty of having committed a misdemeanor. Such a person will have to pay a fine that is not less than $100 and not more than $1000.
Aside from these, certain acts of abuse of authority can also lead to administrative sanctions from the State. These include the acts of deliberately disclosing confidential information to a third party or of providing either false or misleading information to the commission.