What Constitutes Public Corruption?

When government officials are elected, appointed, or hired, they are placed in a position of power and entrusted with a range of responsibilities to the public. Public corruption can occur when officials breach that trust in exchange for private gain, violating both state and federal law in the process.

Because the term “public corruption” encompasses such a broad range of illegal acts, it can be difficult to define. What exactly is public corruption, and how does it take place? Let’s take a look.

Public Corruption Defined

Government officials must perform their official duties without the influence of private gain. When they allow themselves to be influenced by another person in exchange for anything of value, they are said to be committing an act of public corruption.

Public corruption can be perpetrated by federal, state, and local government officials, as well as their accomplices in the private sector. Instances of corruption are often investigated by the FBI and handled by units of federal prosecutors, like the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section.

Types of Public Corruption

Several different types of illegal acts fall under the broad umbrella of public corruption. They may include some of the high-profile cases you’ve seen on television, as well as more hushed or low-profile instances. Transparency International classifies public corruption into two categories.

Grand corruption occurs at a high level of government, like at the level of presidency or vice-presidency. High-level officials may commit grand corruption when they alter policies, or change how the state functions fundamentally, for their own benefit—and to the detriment of the public good.

Petty corruption involves low- and mid-level officials who abuse their power in their day-to-day dealings with ordinary members of the public. It generally involves a smaller-scale exchange of money compared to grand corruption, but it still impacts citizens in significant ways.

More specific types of public corruption include:

  • Prison corruption, like when prison officials smuggle contraband in exchange for paid bribes.
  • Border corruption, which involves bribing officials to turn a blind eye to instances of drug trafficking and alien smuggling across the US border.
  • Election crimes, which can involve voter fraud, civil rights violations, and crimes where federal candidates receive money from illicit sources.
  • Kleptocracy, a form of international corruption that involves embezzling state funds.
  • Violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which deals with accounting transparency and the bribery of foreign officials.
  • Antitrust crimes like price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation.

Public Corruption Defense

If you have been charged with public corruption, or you are under investigation for a related offense, you should get to know the process for a federal criminal case. Call the established Law Offices of Barry Wax for a comprehensive view of your case and an effective legal strategy. Our knowledgeable defense attorneys will provide you with insightful counsel throughout the course of your criminal case.

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax