Every public official who gains their power as the result of an election or appointment has a duty to act in the best interests of the general public. In addition, employees of the State or other government body must also be sure to act appropriately when dealing with public funds. Allegations of misappropriation or embezzlement of public money can lead to corruption charges, where a conviction can come with severe consequences.
A Columbia public corruption lawyer might be able to help you fight back against allegations that you have inappropriately handled public money. They could help you better understand the state’s public corruption laws, the statute under which the prosecutor is bringing charges, and what a prosecutor needs to prove to secure a conviction. With this information, a trustworthy criminal defense attorney could then craft a defense that helps defeat these charges before and during the trial.
The concept of public corruption is not present in the state’s criminal code. However, the generally accepted definition of this practice, the misappropriation of public funds, is certainly illegal. If police and prosecutors believe that a person has inappropriately handled public money, they may bring charges that allege embezzlement of public funds.
According to South Carolina Code § 16-13-210, a person commits embezzlement of public funds when they steal public money while in possession of those funds. Some examples of these people who often find themselves in this position are state employees, politicians, or government officials. We consider this allegation to be an example of public corruption because it involves an alleged theft of public property.
Embezzlement of public funds is always a felony. If the value of the funds is less than $10,000, the law provides for a maximum prison sentence of five years. For values in excess of $10,000, the potential prison term rises to ten years. In addition, the court will order the payment of a fine, often in the amount of the funds involved in the case. A Columbia public corruption attorney could provide more information about the state’s embezzlement laws and the possible consequences of a conviction.
Fighting back against allegations of embezzlement of public funds can be difficult. In fact, S.C. Code § 16-13-220 states that juries are allowed to infer that a public officer or another defendant in charge of these funds is presumptively guilty of embezzlement if they cannot provide proper receipts for the control of that money. As a result, these cases place a significant burden on defendants to prove their innocence, in contrast with all other cases that place the obligation of proof on prosecutors.
A Columbia public corruption lawyer could help rebut this dangerous presumption. From an evidentiary standpoint, they could help uncover proof that a public servant only disposed of funds in the proper manner. It might also be possible to challenge the legality of police work that led to the filing of charges and the discovery of apparent corruption. In sum, a lawyer could take every necessary step to defend the rights and freedoms of people charged with embezzlement of public funds.
Allegations that you have embezzled public funds while in a position of authority is a serious matter. These could apply to government officials, elected individuals, or even certain employees. The truth is that all people who have the authority to hold public money must do so in good faith. Failure to meet this standard could see prosecutors pursuing felony charges.
A Columbia public corruption lawyer could help you fight back against these allegations. They work with you to ensure that you understand the law and listen to your side of the story. They then search for evidence that proves your proper handling of the funds and creates reasonable doubt about the prosecutor’s case in the minds of jurors. Reach out to one now to let them get to work for you.