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Public Employees May Lose Pension for Malfeasance Committed in Office

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The "Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act" enacted in 1978 defrocks public employees of pension for crimes committed by or through public office.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Collateral consequences are those consequences not directly related to a conviction for a crime of which the courts have no control over that may affect a defendant's life.  Things such as a driver's license suspension, revocation of a professional license, loss of voting rights, or the loss of a pension are all collateral consequences to a conviction for a crime or a guilty plea (or nolo contendre plea).  See Commonwealth v. Abraham, 58 A.3d 42 (Pa. 2012) (holding counsel not ineffective for failing to advise teacher of loss of pension after pleading guilty to enumerated crime).

We have all been inundated lately with issues surrounding public employees, such as Jerry Sandusky and Justice Joan Orie Melvin's (both state employees at the time of their transgressions) convictions for their respective crimes.  Many have wondered, how can they still keep their lavish pensions after being convicted?  The easy answer, they cannot.  That's because the Public Employees Pension Forfeiture Act, 43 P.S. § 1311, requires that it be forfeited when certain crimes are committed by or through a public official or employee.

What Crimes Require Forfeiture?

The Act provides as follows:

"CRIMES RELATED TO PUBLIC OFFICE OR PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT." Any of the criminal offenses as set forth in the following provisions of Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes or other enumerated statute when committed by a public official or public employee through his public office or position or when his public employment places him in a position to commit the crime:

  • When the criminal offense is committed by a school employee against a student;
  • Section 3922 (relating to theft by deception) when the criminal
    culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or
    higher
  • Section 3923 (relating to theft by extortion) when the criminal
    culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or
    higher
  • Section 3926 (relating to theft of services) when the criminal
    culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or
    higher
  • Section 3927 (relating to theft by failure to make required disposition
    of funds received) when the criminal culpability reaches the level of a
    misdemeanor of the first degree or higher;
  • Section 4101 (relating to forgery);
  • Section 4104 (relating to tampering with records or identification);
  • Section 4113 (relating to misapplication of entrusted property and
    property of government or financial institutions) when the criminal
    culpability reaches the level of misdemeanor of the second degree;
  • Section 4701 (relating to bribery in official and political matters);
  • Section 4702 (relating to threats and other improper influence in
    official and political matters);
  • Section 4902 (relating to perjury);
  • Section 4903(a) (relating to false swearing);
  • Section 4904 (relating to unsworn falsification to authorities);
  • Section 4906 (relating to false reports to law enforcement
    authorities);
  • Section 4909 (relating to witness or informant taking bribe);
  • Section 4910 (relating to tampering with or fabricating physical
    evidence);
  • Section 4911 (relating to tampering with public records or
    information);
  • Section 4952 (relating to intimidation of witnesses or victims);
  • Section 4953 (relating to retaliation against witness, victim or
    party);
  • Section 5101 (relating to obstructing administration of law or other
    governmental function);
  • Section 5301 (relating to official oppression);
  • Section 5302 (relating to speculating or wagering on official action or
    information).

It is important, as a public employee, to have counsel that is aware of all collateral consequences that may possibly affect one's life.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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