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Public Officials in DC Federal Public Corruption Cases

In corruption charges, the prosecution is focused on proving that a defendant accepted bribes from someone who had the unlawful intent and expectation that the official would or would not do something dishonest. An experienced attorney could help build a defense for public officials in DC federal public corruption cases. Because of the intensity of the opposition, it is very important to have the assistance of a professional when facing these charges.

Elements of Proof

Prosecutors must prove that something of value was offered, given, or promised to a public official and the public official is, in fact, a public official and the bribery involves their official duties.

The prosecutor must prove that the offer of something of value or the actual transaction of something of value actually occurred. They must show that the intent was tied to a quid pro quo situation to prove bribery.

Defendant Qualifications

A public official is defined in 18 US Code Section 201. A public official is a member of Congress, delegate, or resident commissioner, either before or after such official has qualified, where an officer or employee or a person acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department, agency or branch of government thereof, including the District of Columbia, and any official function, under or by the authority of any such department, agency, or branch of government, or a juror.

A public official is employed by the government in Congress, an executive agency, or any kind of branch of government, working in an official capacity. Bribery pertains to a public official or a person elected to be a public official. A person can be elected to be a public official, which is defined as any person who is nominated or appointed to be a public official, who is officially informed that they are nominated or appointed.

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, when someone is involved in a conspiracy that involves a public official, there is a huge sentencing enhancement that comes from being a public official. Even if the person is not a public official but is involved in a conspiracy with a public official, the person also receives that enhancement. The sentencing guidelines for public corruption cases are extremely harsh.

Federal Employment

When a person faces federal charges, they must be in the federal government or the government of the District of Columbia. The federal code applies to public officials in the federal government or in the District of Columbia because the District of Columbia traditionally was controlled and run by the United States Congress. This being said, there have been instances in which state officials have federal charges. It can depend on the circumstances.

The District has the right to self-govern. Nonetheless, Congress has an approval or rejection function over ordinances enacted by the government of the District of Columbia. Because of that relationship and because of the traditional historic relationship between Congress and the District of Columbia, a person can be prosecuted in federal court when they are a public official of the District of Columbia and not the federal government.

The Requirement of an Official Act

An official act is also defined by the statute. The defense can focus on what is being prosecuted and whether it fits into what the statute specifically defines. An official act under the statute means “any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding, or controversy which may at any time be pending or which may by law be brought before any public official in such official capacity or in such official’s place of trust or profit.”

In layman’s terms, that means an official act is something a public official does in accordance with their duties as a public official. It does not include bribery. For example, someone lives next door to the mayor and offers the mayor a case of wine if the mayor would trim the hedges. Being the mayor has nothing to do with trimming the hedges, it is not an official act and does not involve any official duties assigned to the mayor. Therefore, it is outside of the scope of charges involving public officials in DC federal public corruption cases.


Corruption is a question of intent. It is illegal. When someone is engaging in an act corruptly, it means they are doing it knowing that it is illegal and knowing that they should not be doing it. They are doing it for an improper purpose.

How An Attorney Could Help

Facing public corruption charges can be daunting, and building a proper defense is an overwhelming task. Working with an experienced attorney will ensure that everything is being done in the most complete and effective way so as to lead to the best outcome possible. A lawyer who is knowledgeable about public officials in DC federal public corruption cases could help you.

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