Bribery: How a Gift Becomes a Crime
What is Bribery?
California has a multitude of bribery statutes criminalizing bribery, depending on who the offeror or recipient of the bribe is. (Penal Code sections 67, 68, 85, 86, 92, 93, 165, 137, 138, 641.3.)
A bribe is the giving, or even just the offer to give, anything of value to any public official with the specific intent (sometimes called corrupt intent) to influence the public official’s decision in any matter under the jurisdiction of their office.
Therefore, any gift or offer to make a gift to any public official may be misconstrued as a bribe and may lead to criminal prosecution.
Public officials may also be sanctioned for giving or receiving bribes. Therefore, just being in public light may subject you to criminal scrutiny which you never could have foreseen.
What’s the Worst that could happen?
Bribery is a serious crime, and almost always a felony no matter who the recipient of the bribe is. (Exceptions include ministerial officers, the bribery of whom may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Penal Code section 67.5)
The punishment does vary however depending on the specific public office held by the recipient of the bribe.
- Bribery to an Executive Officer (police, city, county, or district prosecutors): 2, 3, or 4 years prison (Penal Code section 67)
- Bribery from an Executive Officer: 2, 3, or4 years state prison (Penal Code section 68)
- Bribery to a Legislator (State senator, any city, county, school district, or other legislator): 2, 3, or 4 years (Penal Code section 85)
- Accepting a Bribe as a Legislator: 2, 3, or 4years prison (Penal Code section 86)
- Bribery to a Judge, Juror, or Arbitrator: 2, 3, or 4 years (Penal Code section 92
- Accepting a Bribe as a Judge, Juror, or Arbitrator: 2, 3, or 4 years (Penal Code section 93)
- Bribery to a Council member: any common council, board of supervisors, or board of trustees of any county, city and county, city, or public corporation – 2, 3, or 4 years state prison (Penal Code section 165)
- Bribery to a Person who has material information pertaining to a crime: 2, 3, or 4 years state prison (Penal Code section 137)
- Bribery to a Witness in a Criminal Case: 16 months, or 2, o 3 years state prison (Penal Code section 138)
- Accepting a Bribe as an Employee: 1 year county jail or16 months or 2 or 3 years in state prison (Penal Code section 641.3)
Each of these crimes may also come with a fine of several thousand dollars.
What defenses are available?
Bribery is a specific intent crime, so to convict someone of a bribery offense, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time the gift was made, the intent of the giver was to influence the decision making of the recipient in some official or professional capacity.
As a practical matter, having a preexisting personal relationship with the recipient or having another readily apparent motive for giving the gift will be a defense.
Ex.: Public official announces they are getting married, you send a gift to congratulate them.
What should I do if I am charged with Bribery?
You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The risks of a Bribery conviction are too great to go-it alone. Call now for a free consultation (877) 977-7750.