In July, a former state representative from Pennsylvania was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to theft and fraud charges. The lawmaker was accused of using the credit card of his mother's caregiver without permission, making purchases, and signing her name on credit card receipts. This incident—and other recent cases involving elected officials who are charged with crimes—raises the question of how criminal cases in Pennsylvania are handled when the person charged is an elected public official.
The Attorney General: Top Law Enforcement Official
The Pennsylvania Attorney General is the top law enforcement official in the Commonwealth and is tasked with protecting and serving the citizens and agencies of Pennsylvania. All criminal matters in the Commonwealth that pertain to the public duties of both state officials and employees are investigated and prosecuted by the Office of Attorney General (OAG).
The Criminal Law Division, which falls under the domain of the Office of the Attorney General, has responsibility for investigating a wide range of criminal violations, from organized crime to drug trafficking, public corruption, and more.
The Public Corruption Section of the Criminal Law Division is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that involve public officials and employees. These offenses may include theft, money laundering, corrupt influence, conflicts of interest, and more. The Public Corruption Section may also conduct joint investigations with the FBI and other federal agencies.
Lawmakers Who Violate Public Trust May Face Severe Consequences
Public servants who violate public trust—including legislators, public employees, and others—may face severe consequences. Penalties range from removal from office, censure, restitution, permanent disqualification from holding any state position, fines, and prison time. Punishments for ethics violations depend upon the form of misconduct and the harm that the violation caused.
Pennsylvania Elected Officials and Public Employees May Be Denied Pensions If Convicted Of Certain Crimes
In March of 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pension Forfeiture Reform Law that broadens the list of crimes committed by public officials and employees that may result in denial of their pensions. The expanded list now includes job-related felonies, conspiracies, and other crimes that are punishable by more than five years in prison.
Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Protects The Rights Of Those Accused
When a public official is accused of a crime, it obviously draws more attention due to the individual's role as an elected public official. If you are a Pennsylvania lawmaker who was charged with an offense, don't be tried in the media and the court of public opinion; have an experienced criminal defense attorney handle your case for the best possible outcome. Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm is skilled and experienced, with in-depth knowledge of Pennsylvania's criminal laws. Attorney Lento is dedicated to fighting for the rights of the accused, with a track record of success. Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or online to arrange for a consultation.