The law is fluid. It evolves and changes due to the impact of various mechanisms. Examples include the passage of new laws and rulings by the judiciary. One specific area of law that has evolved in recent years involves the handling of allegations of corruption.
How has the law changed regarding corruption charges? The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has made it more difficult for the government to prosecute these cases. Two specific changes include:
- Gifts. It is not as easy as it once was to establish that a gift is evidence of corruption. As noted in a recent piece by the New York Times, the change likely began in 1999. At this time, SCOTUS held that to build a successful corruption case the government needed to establish that any small gifts given to government officials must be connected to a special favor. The presence of a gift alone was not enough to support the charges.
- Official acts. In 2016, SCOTUS heard a case that involved a public official that scheduled meetings between influential people and a constituent. The government pointed to the history of gift giving from the constituent to the official to support charges of corruption. The court refused to support the corruption charges, noting the scheduling of such meetings was a regular part of the official’s duties. SCOTUS voiced concern that a movement in support of such charges would “disrupt the healthy functioning of ‘democratic discourse.’”
These changes have provided clarity on the requirements needed to build a corruption case. They also provide information that can aid those who face accusations of political corruption. These precedent cases are just one source used to help build a defense to these charges.
Those who face such allegations are wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced political corruption defense lawyer will use this and other sources to tailor a defense to your specific situation.