abuse of official capacity

Abuse of Official Capacity

Abuse of Official Capacity | Penal Code 39.02

Penal Code Section 39.02 makes it illegal for a public servant to use government property, services, personnel, or anything of value, that comes into the public servant’s possession by virtue of the public servant’s office. The mental state requirement for this offense is that the public servant intended to obtain a benefit while intentionally or knowingly committing the act in question.

This offense ranges from a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the thing used was less than $100 to a first-degree felony if the value of the thing used was $300,000 or more.

An example from the State’s Ethics Training website gives this example: State officers and employees are prohibited from using a state computer on state time to send email messages to co-workers urging them to vote for a certain candidate in an upcoming election. 

Penal Code Section 39.02 Abuse of Official Capacity

(a) A public servant commits an offense if, with intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly:

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(1) violates a law relating to the public servant’s office or employment; or

(2) misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment.

(b) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor.

(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2) is:

(1) a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is less than $100;

(2) a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $100 or more but less than $750;

(3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $750 or more but less than $2,500;

(4) a state jail felony if the value of the use of the thing misused is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000;

(5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000;

(6) a felony of the second degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000; or

(7) a felony of the first degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $300,000 or more.

(d) A discount or award given for travel, such as frequent flyer miles, rental car or hotel discounts, or food coupons, are not things of value belonging to the government for purposes of this section due to the administrative difficulty and cost involved in recapturing the discount or award for a governmental entity.

(e) If separate transactions that violate Subsection (a)(2) are conducted pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct, the conduct may be considered as one offense and the value of the use of the things misused in the transactions may be aggregated in determining the classification of the offense.

(f) The value of the use of a thing of value misused under Subsection (a)(2) may not exceed:

(1) the fair market value of the thing at the time of the offense; or

(2) if the fair market value of the thing cannot be ascertained, the cost of replacing the thing within a reasonable time after the offense.