Aspiring Statesville and other local North Carolina politicians might not be fully aware of this, but when they took on a political office or position, even one at the local level, they can be criminally charged for not doing their jobs. Such was the case for a sheriff recently, and the details of his case were reported in a previous post on this blog.
Public officials in North Carolina need not fear that the occasional mistake or oversight will end with a criminal charge against them. Indeed, the statute requires that a person “willfully” fail to do his or her job, meaning even carelessness in office would be a matter left to the electorate or, at worst, to a civil or administrative proceeding.
On the other hand, a public official need not do anything in order to face an accusation, as simply failing to perform the duties of one’s office is enough for a criminal charge, so long as there is proof the public official acted “willfully.”
A conviction for this charge is a misdemeanor under North Carolina’s criminal law, but the consequences are still serious. In addition to having a criminal conviction on one’s record, for instance, a conviction can also mean that the person is removed from his or her position. With a criminal conviction, it may be tough to get the public or even a private employer to trust that person ever again with any sort of important role.
Moreover, one must not forget that even a misdemeanor can mean jail time, fines, probation and other consequences.
Many public officials go in to office with the best of intentions, but they may wind up making mistakes that, rightly or wrongly, get charged as crimes. In these sorts of situations, the person accused should strongly consider speaking with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.