Maine lists "official oppression" as a crime.

  1. A person is guilty of official oppression if, being a public servant and acting with the intention to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office. [ 1975, c. 499, §1 (NEW) .]
  2. Official oppression is a Class E crime.

My question is, "doesn't this pretty much encompass every action that deviates from official duties?" Whenever we act we're always trying to benefit ourselves or another. Otherwise we wouldn't act. Or we're trying to harm someone. And shouldn't a public servant pretty much always "know" what his duties are? Also, any chance the "clearly inherent" part is unconstitutionally vague?

  • 2
    " And shouldn't a public servant pretty much always "know" what his duties are?" In other states, county clerks apparently don't and make a public spectacle of their mockery of due process.
    – user662852
    Mar 12, 2016 at 12:29
  • @user662852 I know who you're talking about. I just can't believe she wasn't in jail longer, nor removed from her position.
    – user608
    Mar 14, 2016 at 6:50
  • "knowingly" refers to the unauthorized act or failure to perform a duty. If you fail to perform a duty because you just spaced it, that's negligence but not a crime, it is somewhat redundant given the intent element.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 8, 2018 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


No. The law is written more clearly in Pennsylvania Title 18:

  1. Official oppression. A person acting or purporting to act in an official capacity or taking advantage of such actual or purported capacity commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, knowing that his conduct is illegal, he: (1) subjects another to arrest, detention, search, seizure, mistreatment, dispossession, assessment, lien or other infringement of personal or property rights; or (2) denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity.

I've seen complaints made under Official Oppression statutes against police officers, but they have all been rejected because the statute requires not only that the act be performed in one's official capacity, but also that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the official knew the act to be illegal. Since police are authorized in the course of their duties to commit on behalf of the state all of the torts and crimes enumerated under Official Oppression, proving that they knew that a particular instance was illegal is practically impossible if they don't outright admit it.

Maine's statute further requires that intent to benefit the official or harm another also be established beyond a reasonable doubt.

Convictions under Maine's Official Oppression for refraining to do something are even more difficult. At least for police the threshold for a "duty to act" may be insurmountable, as suggested by the frequently-cited Warren v. District of Columbia.

(Amendment: I just found this telling article. Of note: "Convicting a police officer of a civil rights violation is one of the toughest challenges a prosecutor can face, numerous legal and civil rights experts told the Trib.")

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