Abuse of Public Position Crimes

As required by Amendment 12, the abuse of public position prohibition took effect on December 31, 2020. Amendment 12 required the Florida Legislature to enact implementing legislation establishing penalties for violations of the prohibition to take effect the same day.

As a result, Section 112.317, F.S., makes the penalty provisions of the section applicable to the constitutional prohibition.

The bill reenacts s. 112.317, F.S., which provides penalties for violations of the Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and for any violation of Art. II, s. 8, State Constitution.

The reenactment of s. 112.317, F.S., will make the section applicable to amendments to the State Constitution by Amendment 12 adopted in the 2018 general election.

The amended constitutional language prohibits a public officer or public employee from abusing his or her public position in order to obtain a disproportionate benefit.

Attorneys for Crimes Alleging Abuse of Public Position in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent state employees, providers, and elected officials accused of ethics violations, as well as allegations of misconduct and gross mismanagement.

We understand the laws in Florida related to violating public integrity and ethics including criminal charges for abuse of a public position.

During the consultation, we can discuss the criminal charges pending against you, the possible penalties, and the best way to fight the charges.

We can also explain the best ways to protect yourself against a possible disgorgement for breaches of the public trust for private gain or the forfeiture of retirement pension for felonies involving breach of public trust.

Call 813-250-0500.

Penalties for Abuse of Public Position Crimes in Florida

According to the Committee on Ethics and Elections and the Florida Senate 2020 summary of legislation passed, House Bill  HB 7009 sets out penalties for violations of the constitutional prohibition against abuse of public position under s. 112.317, F.S., including:

  • a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000
  • the payment of restitution;
  • public censure and reprimand; and
  • impeachment and removal from office.

Florida’s Ethics Laws for Elected Officials

The investigation of an electric official for ethics violations usually begins with a tip, complaint, or self-initiated action (for example during a compliance review). Some of the complaints are made directly to the Florida Commission on Ethics on CE FORM 50 incorporated by reference in Rule 34-7.010(1)(b), F.A.C.

If good cause is found, then an investigation begins. If probable cause is found, then the case might be referred for a criminal prosecution to the state attorney’s office or statewide prosecutor’s office.

The most common types of ethics investigations for misconduct by elected officials include the following types of violations:

  • Per Se Conflicts of interest
  • Voting conflicts
  • Doing business with yourself
  • Doing business with relatives
  • Employment of relatives
  • Dual public employment
  • Contacts with lobbyists
  • Solicitation of gifts or things of value
  • Misuse of public position
  • Gift acceptance and reporting
  • Charitable solicitations or fundraising
  • Campaign fundraising for yourself, relatives, or other candidates
  • Acceptance of admission tickets to a charitable event
  • Failure to provide full and public disclosure of financial interests
  • Failure to provide full and public disclosure of campaign finances

In Florida, ethics laws can be found in the Florida Constitution and state ethics code, county ethics code, or municipal codes.

Under the statutory scheme, the term “gross mismanagement” is defined as “the material waste or significant mismanagement of public resources.”

The term “misconduct” is defined as “any violation of the state or federal constitution, any state or federal statute or code, any county or municipal ordinance or code; or conduct involving fraud, corruption, or abuse.”

Florida’s Office of Election Crime and Security

In 2021, several changes were made to Florida’s election laws aimed at limiting voter fraud, the use of ballot drop boxes and mail-in ballots, and ballot harvesting. The Office of Election Crime and Security gives the governor unprecedented authority over election-related crimes and other types of election irregularities.

Florida’s Office of Election Crime and Security would have a budget of more than five million dollars and employ more than 40 investigators. The office reports to the Secretary of State, appointed by the governor to oversee elections.

The office would be able to take over investigation involving voter fraud or other types of election crimes conducted by local police or prosecutors. Cases would be prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution within the Attorney General’s Office.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.