Earlier today, former Whitfield County police officer, Scott Reneau, pleaded guilty to six counts of theft by taking in Georgia along with six counts of violation of oath by a public officer according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The reports state that Reneau was initially investigated in March of 2016 when forfeiture money and a few weapons went missing from the Tunnel Hill Police Department. As a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I've written a lot on the concept that no one is immune from being accused or even committing a crime. Sometimes, this includes law enforcement officers.
In today's post, I will focus on the offense of violation of oath by a public officer in Georgia. Certain crimes including:
- Bribery in Georgia
- Filing False Documents in Georgia
- Transmitting False Report of a Crime in Georgia
All fall under the category of crimes against public administration and are not well-covered by the media and other news outlets. This is why I want to focus in on what the law is behind this particular offense of violation of oath so as to provide people with a better understanding of the law.
Violation of Oath in Georgia
The Georgia Code defines violation of oath by a public officer as:
A person is guilty of violation of oath by a public officer when he or she violates the following oath prescribed in O.C.G.A. §15-16-4:
“I do swear that I will faithfully execute all writs, warrants, precepts, and processes directed to me as sheriff of this county, or which are directed to all sheriffs of this state, or to any other sheriff specially, which I can lawfully execute, and true returns make, and in all things well and truly, without malice or partiality, perform the duties of the office of sheriff of _____ County, during my continuance therein, and take only my lawful fees. So help me God.”
To convict an officer of violating his or her oath of office, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was actually administered an oath, that the oath was prescribed by law, and that the officer violated the terms of that oath.
If a public officer is convicted of violating his or her oath in Georgia, the offense is classified as a felony, and the punishment will be a prison term between one and five years.
Although Reneau pled guilty to his violation charges, the reality is that not everyone who is accused of this crime is guilty of committing it. There are Georgia Criminal Defenses that apply to this crime. One of the most common defenses is that the oath was not actually administered correctly.
If you or a loved one has been accused of violating an oath of public office, contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today. This is not a charge to be taken lightly. The penalties if convicted are severe and having a felony on your record is life-altering. Contact us now.