Official Misconduct under Florida Statute 838.022

The criminal offense of official misconduct under Florida Statute Section 838.022 is a felony offense. The crime is considered a felonious breach of the public trust with can lead to the forfeiture of retirement and pension benefits as a “specified offense” under Florida Statute Section 112.3173.

Call us to learn more about the career consequences that occur after such a serious accusation.

Attorney for Official Misconduct Crimes in the Tampa, FL

If you were charged with Official Misconduct then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. We represent public servants including law enforcement officers for charges of official misconduct and related charges such as unlawful compensation for official behavior.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent individuals charged with the felony offense of Official Misconduct in Florida particularly for cases in the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, and Hernando County, FL.

Contact an attorney to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss the particular facts of your case. If you are under investigation for “Official Misconduct” under Florida Statute Section 838.022 then call us today to discuss your case.

Call (813) 250-0500.

Who Can be Charged with Official Misconduct?

Any “public servant” can be charged with the crime, including law enforcement officers or other city, state, or county employees. The term “public servant” does not include someone who is simply a candidate running for county sheriff or another public servant position.

Under Florida Statute Section § 838.014(6) the term “public servant” means:

  • Any officer or employee of any state, county, municipal or special district agency or entity;
  • Any legislative or judicial officer or employee;
  • Any person, except a witness, who acts as a general or special magistrate, receiver, auditor, arbitrator, umpire, referee, consultant, or hearing officer while performing a governmental function.

Effective October 1, 2003, the statute was rewritten as section 838.022, Florida Statutes, and the former version of the Official Misconduct Statute Section 839.25, Florida Statutes, was repealed.

Types of Official Misconduct Charges in Florida

The elements of the crime of official misconduct include a showing that the person accused:

  • was a public servant;
  • acted with corrupt intent;
  • acted to obtain a benefit for any person, and
  • did one of the following acts related to an official record or document:
    • falsified, or caused another person to falsify, any official record or official document (subsection 838.022(A)(1));
    • concealed, covered up, destroyed, mutilated, or altered any official record or official document or caused another person to perform such an act (subsection 838.022(A)(2)); or
    • obstructed, delayed, or prevented the communication of information relating to the commission of a felony that directly involved or affected the public agency or public entity served by the public servant (subsection 838.022(A)(3)).

The Florida Supreme Court approved standard jury instructions for this charge that were adopted in 2013.

Definitions under Florida’s Official Misconduct Statute

Florida law under Florida Statute § 838.014(1) defines the term “benefit” which means to gain an advantage or gain anything regarded by the person to be benefited as a gain or advantage, including the doing of an act beneficial to any person in whose welfare he or she is interested, including any commission, gift, gratuity, property, commercial interest, or any other thing of economic value not authorized by law.

The term “harm” is defined under Florida Statute § 838.014(5) to mean pecuniary or other loss, disadvantage, or injury to the person affected.

Under Florida Statute § 838.022(2)(b) the term “official record” or “official document” includes only public records.

The term “public records” are defined under Florida Statute § 119.011(12) to mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.

Requirement of “Corrupt” Intent for Misconduct

Florida law also provides that such conduct only constitutes a crime when done with “corrupt” intent to obtain a benefit for any person or to cause harm to another.

The term “corrupt” means “done with the knowledge that act is wrongful and with improper motives.” See Hames v. City of Miami Firefighters’ & Police Officers’ Trust, 980 So. 2d 1112, 1117 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008).

Furthermore, under Florida law for the felony offense of “official misconduct,” it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove that the person accused acted with the intent to benefit himself or another or with the intent to cause harm to another.

Thus, the term “with corrupt intent” is defined under Florida Statute § 838.014(4) to mean knowingly and dishonestly for a wrongful purpose.

This article was last updated on Friday, May 21, 2021.