Lakewood NJ Employee Charged With Official Misconduct

Ocean County Official Misconduct Defense AttorneysWhen you work for the township and feel it is okay to tip off the bad guys before the cops can move in, then you are exposing yourself to official misconduct charges. This was precisely the situation that occurred in Lakewood recently.  

The allegations in this case are as follows.  Jorge L. Lopez was the Lakewood Township Building’s custodian.  On March 16, 2018, he noticed police officers congregating in the township building, preparing to execute a drug-related search warrant.  The target of the search warrant happened to be Lopez’s drug supplier.  Lopez tipped the dealer off to avoid seizure of CDS in the planned raid.

Following an internal affairs investigation, the case was brought to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, which ultimately approved charges against Lopez.  The crux of the case is that, as a township employee, Lopez was authorized to be in the building, but was not authorized to share sensitive law enforcement information.  

Indeed, the crime of official misconduct is generally using one’s public office for private benefit.  While they are still just allegations, it appears that if the facts as presented end up being true, then it would seem that Lopez’s conduct fits the offense of official misconduct.  If only we, as a society, go after the high officials for the official misconduct they commit – rather then just a township custodian – we would all be much better off.    Official Misconduct Charges In Ocean County, NJThe essence of official misconduct is that a person commits an act relating to his or her public employment, which was not authorized, and does so with the purpose of getting a personal benefit or a benefit to someone else.  It is a very serious crime that could lead to many years in prison.

The official misconduct statute in New Jersey can be found at N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2.  The statute reads as follows:

A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with purpose to obtain a benefit for himself or another or to injure or to deprive another of a benefit:

He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized or he is committing such act in an unauthorized manner; or

He knowingly refrains from performing a duty, which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.

Official misconduct is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit obtained or sought to be obtained, or of which another is deprived or sought to be deprived, is of a value of $200.00 or less, the offense of official misconduct is a crime of the third degree.

Given the statutory language, taking a bribe in exchange for official action is official misconduct; attempting to injure a political rival through the use of official action is official misconduct; failing to enforce a law to protect a friend or family member is official misconduct; and tipping off a friend about imminent police action against them, when you acquired that knowledge through your public position, is official misconduct.  The statute indicates that official misconduct is, by default, a second-degree crime unless the value of the personal benefit to the public official is less than $200, in which case it is a third-degree crime.  

A conviction for a second-degree crime can be 5 to 10 years in prison, and up to a $150,000 fine.  A third-degree crime carries a 3 to 5 year sentence and a fine up to $15,000.  In addition to those statutory penalties, a public official found guilty of official misconduct will typically be stripped of his or her public office and will not be able to serve in public office in New Jersey again, or for a specified period of time.  Ocean County Official Misconduct Lawyers Are Here to Help YouOfficial misconduct is a serious offense because it not only involves a person using public office for private benefit, but it involves the larger scourge of corruption – a complete betrayal of public trust.  Every time we see officials – who is being paid by the public to do a job for the public – use their authority to give themselves first-class tickets, take private plane rides, provide perks for their friends and donors, purchase expensive office furniture, enrich their own private companies on the taxpayer’s dime, our State and our nation become weakened.  The rule of law gets a little more brittle.  Our trust in what is good and ethical decreases a little more.  

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have represented many people accused of official misconduct.  As with the Lopez case above, we often see the little guy be charged with official misconduct, while the more egregious cases of official misconduct by top officials are ignored.  We at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are here to fight for the little guy.  If you are facing official misconduct charges, call our office to learn more about how we can build a winning defense for you.  Our number is 732-286-6500.  We offer a free consultation.  Call today. 
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