Under California statute, bribery is defined as giving, offering, or taking something valuable to commit corruption. The intent is to illegally influence an individual holding an official or public position capacity to change their opinion, decision, or judgment about a particular thing. Bribery is an offense that could occur in different contexts, either in public or private Organizations. Usually, it is done to gain benefits that were otherwise not meant to be achieved by a certain person or at a particular time.
Regardless of the situation or circumstance under which the offense is committed, the consequences are serious and could be detrimental to your personal and professional life. It could see the end of a promising career. Typically, bribery in California is prosecuted as a felony, and if you are found guilty, you could be sentenced to serve four years in prison.
If you or your family member are facing bribery charges, you want to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The lawyer must have experience in dealing with cases of defendants accused of bribery. Also, they must have had positive outcomes in the rulings for the cases they defended. An experienced lawyer will help you build strong defenses that could help you have solid arguments for your case and result in the charges being dismissed or reduced.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our lawyers have spent many years defending suspects accused of bribery. We are ready to work with you and study your case in-depth to build solid defenses to help you get the most favorable outcome. Contact us today so that we can start working on your case.
An Overview Of Bribery In California
The act of giving out money or other items to a person holding an official capacity to influence them to make a decision that is favorable to you refers to bribery. Bribery is considered a two-way transaction in that the one giving and the one receiving the bribe are eligible for prosecution.
Elements Of Bribery
There are some elements a prosecutor must prove to have grounds to charge you with bribery. They include the following:
- You offered or gave a public officer money or something of value to influence their decision in a matter in which you are interested.
- A public officer received or asked for a bribe to influence their decision on a legal matter.
Something is considered a bribe if it is:
- Offered or given with corrupt intent.
- Offered or given to influence the decision or opinion of an individual holding an official or public capacity.
- A highly valuable item is offered or given as a token or promise for undertaking certain acts favorable to the one offering it.
You do not necessarily have to receive or give out a bribe to be prosecuted. The thought of receiving or giving out a bribe is enough to see you charged for bribery. Like in any other case, a prosecutor has the burden of proof in a bribery case. A person could still face bribery charges even if the person they intended to bribe does not agree to receive the money.
For example, If you offer something of value to a judge to have a favorable outcome in a case you are interested in, but the judicial officer does not agree to receive it. The judge later goes ahead and files a report against you. The law enforcers will have you arrested, and the prosecutor will charge you with the bribery of a judicial officer.
The inherent value of the item or money offered is not essential during bribery. The thing that matters is that what was offered or received is of a significant amount. The prosecutor must prove that money or a gift was offered or received to influence an official's decision.
The most common element of a bribery offense is that it is committed with a particular intention. You could not be prosecuted for bribery if you did not have corrupt intent. It is hard for a prosecutor to gather evidence on someone's thoughts; hence, the court allows them to gather circumstantial or direct evidence.
The prosecutor could present proof of recordings, videotapes, or witness accounts to the court. The judge must decide whether the proof is substantial and give a ruling on whether you acted with corrupt intent.
Legal Matter Or Official Matter
Trying to influence a legal or official matter is considered bribery and is punishable by law. The legal matter refers to an opinion, decision or vote. California laws do not specify the amount of tradeoff considered bribery or the specific favor considered illegal as long as it was done to gain undeserved favors.
Statutes In California That Show The Acts That Embody Bribery
The following are the types of bribery in California:
Under Penal Codes 67 And 68, Bribery of an executive officer
Bribery by or of an executive officer is prosecuted as a felony. In California, an executive officer refers to a government official who is mandated to use their judgment to perform duties. For example, a police officer or a district attorney.
Penal Code 68 makes it illegal for an executive officer to receive a token or something valuable to influence their decision about a legal matter. If found guilty, punishments may range from fines, serving in jail or prison, being dismissed from an official capacity, and being barred from holding an official position.
Under Penal Codes 85 And 86, Bribery of a Legislator
Bribery by or of a legislator is charged as a criminal offense. A legislator in California includes a member of a school district legislative body, a state legislator, and a member of a city or county legislative body. Bribes under this statute are given to influence the decision for a legislator to vote in favor or against a certain legal matter.
A legislator could give money to their colleague to influence the vote for a particular motion they are interested in. If you receive money or something of value to influence your decision in legal matters, you will be charged with the bribery of a legislator.
Under Penal Code 86, the offense of bribing by a legislator is prosecuted as a felony.
Under Penal Codes 92 And 93, the Bribery of judicial officer
Bribery by or of a judicial official or officer is prosecuted as a felony. A judicial officer refers to jurors, judges, or any individual with a mandate to undertake the hearing of a legal matter. It is a crime for you to offer or give money to an individual undertaking a decision in court in a case you have an interest in.
If a judicial officer deciding that particular case receives something of value to influence their ruling, then they will be charged with bribery of a judicial officer.
Under Penal Codes 137 And 138, Bribery of a witness
It is a crime to offer or give a bribe to a witness to alter their statement during a hearing. Under Penal Code 137, the offense is charged as a felony. It is also a crime when you use threats, force, or fraud to influence a key witness’s testimony in court.
Under Penal Code 138, it is a crime to offer money to a witness to influence their decision about whether or not to make attendance in a court hearing. If you receive money from the person with interest in the case you are a witness to for you to alter your statement, you will be charged with bribery of a witness.
The offense is punishable by up to 2 to 4 years in state prison.
Under Penal Code 165, Bribery of a member of the county board of supervisors
Bribery by or of a member of the county boards of supervisors is charged as a crime. This law applies to:
- City or County boards of trustees
- Common councils.
- The public corporation board of trustees.
Under Penal Code 641.3, Commercial Bribery
It is a crime to offer or give a bribe to an employee of any organization to influence them to undertake actions that are favorable to you.
The most common form of this offense is known as commercial bribery. The employee accepts money without the consent or knowledge of the employer corruptly in return for using their position to benefit you.
Bribery of an employee is a wobbler offense, and charges depend on the amount transacted. If the bribery transactions are between $250 and $1000, the offense is considered a misdemeanor, and when convicted, you could serve a sentence of one year in a county jail.
If the amount involved is more than $1000, then you will be charged with a felony which is punishable for up to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison.
Some examples of bribery or unlawful acts done to gain undeserved benefits include:
- Giving or offering a blank check to a vital witness of a case that you are involved in to influence their statement in a hearing.
- Paying a hefty amount, for example, $5000, to influence members elected as public servants in their decision about a legal matter.
- Paying $1000 to an employee in a public organization to have your file worked on faster than it usually would.
Penalties For The Offense Of Bribery
In California, giving or receiving a bribe is considered a criminal offense and punishable by law. Usually, bribery is considered a federal offense if the circumstances under which it occurred had a detrimental effect on the public.
The penalties for bribery are usually severe and are geared towards preventing citizens from committing the crime. All types of bribery are prosecuted as felonies except for commercial bribery, which is a wobbler offense. A wobbler offense can be prosecuted as both a misdemeanor and a felony.
If you or your family member are charged with bribery, you could face the following penalties if you are found guilty:
- For commercial bribery, if the money involved is less than $1000, you could face misdemeanor charges that could see you serve one year in a county jail once convicted. If the transaction was more than $1000, you could be prosecuted for committing a felony and face a sentence of up to 16 months, two years, or four years in state prison.
- If you offer to give a bribe to an official or an employee of an organization and they refuse to partake in it. If the employee files a bribery crime against you, you are charged with offering a bribe and penalized to pay a fine of up to $10000.
- You could face a fine of double the amount you transacted to commit bribery or a fine of $10000 if you offered a large amount of money if the bribe was received.
- You could terminate your contract if you are a public officer and be barred permanently from holding any other official capacity.
The amount of time you serve in jail or prison or the fines for bribery is determined by the type of crime, the value of gifts, or the amount of money involved in committing the offense.
Legal Defenses To Bribery In California
Bribery is an offense that could see you face severe penalties if convicted. It could mean years in prison (up to 4 years), fines of up to $10000, the end of a promising career, or a lifetime of tainted criminal records.
Bribery being a serious offense, is subjected to investigations by the federal government. If a public officer is charged with bribery, it becomes a high-profile case that is first tried in the media. After that, it is tried in court.
A white-collar crime like bribery has the consequences of being subjected to an invasive investigation by the government and federal government. However, if you are charged with bribery, it does not necessarily mean you have to suffer the consequences.
It could be a case of mistaken intentions. You want to contact and seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are charged with bribery. To have your charges dismissed or reduced, you must collaborate with a lawyer with many years of experience defending defendants accused of bribery.
The attorney must have had positive outcomes in the cases they handled. Criminal defense attorneys experienced in defending defendants accused of bribery have strategies that enable them to win the cases in court.
Some of the solid defenses that you could use or adapt that could help you fight the charges of bribery against you and see your case have a positive outcome include:
Lack Of Corrupt Intent To Commit The Crime
You are only guilty of bribery if it is proven that you had the intention to gain undeserved favor by intentionally offering a bribe to a public officer or an employee of an organization. Therefore, there can only be conviction if the prosecutor proves that your actions influenced the decision or opinion to gain favor for a service you are interested in.
Sometimes you could give a gift to an official not to necessarily influence their decision but as a token of appreciation without having the intention to bribe them. The officer could mistake the action as giving a bribe; hence you have to collaborate with your lawyer to prove that you had no intention to alter the decision regarding the matter you are interested in.
There are instances in which you could be falsely accused of committing bribery. It could be a case of someone seeking revenge, jealousy, or mistaken identity. For example, you could be a developer who gives a token of appreciation to an elected official for the good work done in your county.
Your competitors or the public then assume that you intend to gain favor from the elected member by influencing them to grant you a tender to supply your commodities. While the gift seems like a bribe, you had no such intention. If you are accused of bribery, you must seek a competent lawyer's services to prove that you have been accused falsely.
You could only be convicted of bribery if you were in the right mental state to decide to commit a corrupt action intentionally. Voluntary intoxication is considered one of the best defenses against bribery charges.
You must show evidence that you were intoxicated when you offered or gave the bribe. And the level of intoxication impaired the ability to make a corrupt intent of your action.
You could argue that you gave a bribe out of coercion by a public officer and not out of your own will. Public officials sometimes use their capacity to threaten and take advantage of the public for money in exchange for providing services.
You are therefore forced to give money or something of value to access a free service. If you are accused of bribery, you could collaborate with your lawyer to prove that it was a case of coercion and you had no intention of bribing the public officer.
In California, entrapment occurs when a law-abiding citizen is induced or forced to commit a crime. Usually, a public officer perpetrates the crime by forcing you to give out a bribe through threats, fraud, and harassment.
If the public officer provided or presented an opportunity to bribe them without force, you could not use entrapment as a defense. Entrapment is a solid defense that could see your charges reduced or dismissed. You have the burden of proof to argue that yours is a case of entrapment.
The entrapment defense is only applicable when you use it against law enforcement officials or individuals mandated to work under their discretions. The judge will compare your undertakings in response to being solicited to those of a law-abiding citizen. A law-abiding citizen is an average individual who obeys and keeps the law.
Expungement Of A Bribery Conviction
You could have your bribery conviction expunged or removed from your criminal records if you have not yet served a prison sentence. Expungement is only applicable if you have been convicted of misdemeanor bribery and have served your jail term sentence or probation and completed it.
You could also have the bribery offenses removed from your criminal record if you have served your felony probation and completed it successfully.
Related Offenses To Bribery
In California, three crimes are related to bribery. They include:
- Penal Code 632- Eavesdropping
- Penal Code 518 - Extortion
- Penal Code 503 - Embezzlement
Under Penal Code 632, listening in on or recording another person’s confidential conversation is a crime. Although this crime is distinctly different from bribery, one could bribe a person depending on what they garnered from eavesdropping on a confidential conversation that the other person is interested in or to gain undeserved favors.
Under Penal Code 518, it is a crime for you to use extortion or blackmail to force another person to give you money in exchange for a service or favor. A person is guilty of extortion if they use force to compel another person to hand in money or property or to pressure a public officer into undertaking an official act.
Unlike bribery under California laws, which involve using a bribe to influence a decision or gain undeserved favors, extortion requires using force to influence the decision.
Under Penal Code 503, you could be charged with embezzlement if you commit the following acts:
- You unlawfully claim ownership of a property given to you to deny or deprive the real owner of access to their property.
In California, embezzlement is considered a white-collar offense. Unlike bribery, where the prosecutor has to prove the evidence of corrupt intent, an embezzlement case requires proof of intent to deprive.
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Bribery is a crime that could have severe repercussions as it is an offense that could be subjected to investigations by the federal government. Once convicted, you could face loss of money through fines, jail or prison terms, loss of a promising career, and a tainted criminal record that could affect your job placements or immigration rights.
If you or your family member are being charged with bribery, you must seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The lawyer must have defended defendants accused of bribery and had a favorable ruling for the cases they were defending.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have lawyers ready to take on your case and build solid defenses that could see your charges reduced or dismissed. Contact us at 424-333-0943 so that we can start working on your case.