Any effort to corruptly influence another person’s decision, opinion, or judgment is considered bribery. A conviction for bribery will see you facing severe penalties, including jail time and hefty fines. The severity of your punishment will depend on the amount of money involved in the crime. If you or your loved one is battling bribery charges, it would be wise to seek the legal representation of an attorney from Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. Our attorneys will help you argue your case for a possible reduction of the penalties. If you are in Los Angeles, consult us to ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
Overview of Bribery Law
Under California law, bribery occurs when an individual offers something of value to someone else with the intent to influence their decision or actions. Both the person giving and the one receiving the bribe will get charged with a bribery offense. Most bribes aim at changing or altering the decisions which end up causing public or political corruption. Bribes do not have to be in monetary form, but they can be in the form of promises or gifts. Also, a written agreement is not required to prove that a crime of bribery occurred. To get convicted for this offense, the prosecutor needs to show your intent to give or receive the bribe.
It is considered bribery when you give a public officer something valuable so that they can act in your favor. Individuals deemed to be public officers are Judges, Jurors, Police officers, as well as board supervisor members. Regardless of whether the officer you bribed has the authority or not, the important part is whether the officer acted within their authority scope. To get convicted for bribery, a prosecutor must prove without a reasonable doubt, the following elements of the crime:
The prosecutor must show that you gave or received something of value which could be money, gifts, or a promise to alter a decision. Also, a bribe does not have to be agreed upon for a conviction to be made. You will get convicted even when the person you tried to offer the bribe did not accept it.
- Corrupt Intent
If you did not have a wrongful design in your actions, you could not be convicted for this offense. The prosecutor has to provide evidence or witnesses to ascertain that you had corrupt intent. Then the judge will decide to decide what happened in your situation.
- An official matter
California bribery law does not require a specific instance of bribe to convict a defendant. A bribe can be informed of general favors which may seem as simple gestures. As long as you gave or received a bribe intending to alter an official decision, you can be proven guilty of bribery. If you are facing bribery charges, it is essential to have legal representation from an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney may help you find fault to disqualify the prosecutors’ evidence against you.
Bribery can occur in different ways, influenced by a specific goal. Even when your actions were not harmful to the public interest, you can still get charged and convicted for bribery. The following are some categories of corruption, depending on the individuals involved in the act.
California Penal Code Section 641.3 – Commercial Bribery
As defined by Penal Code Section 641.3 of California, bribery occurs when you corruptly give or accept or agrees to receive money or something whose value is higher than $250. Also, the money or gifts should be from someone other than your employer with knowledge and consent to the receiving person can use their position for your benefit.
Both the person who gives and the one who receives a commercial bribe will be charged with bribery. Kickbacks, which are payment, services, or goods, are provided in exchange for desired benefits. In many industries, people may graciously offer these kickbacks. Employees accept these kickbacks without giving a second thought to this practice. However, when the value of the payments exceeds $ 250, it is considered a crime of bribery. It is crucial to put into account the amount of money you get in the form of these kickbacks to avoid getting charged with corruption.
Regarding commercial bribery, employees have an ethical duty to be loyal to their employers. This is restraining from collecting money or gifts from a third party to make decisions behind their employer’s backs. Commercial bribery is a wobbler offense, and the penalties will be dependent on the value of the bribes given.
California Penal Code 137 and 138 – Bribery by or of Witnesses
California Penal Code 137(a) deals with bribes given to witnesses to alter their testimony in court cases. Also, it involves witnesses who are expected to provide valuable information to prosecutors or the police. Penal Code 137(a) is charged as a felony when. A person offers or gives money or a promise to a witness to influence their testimonies. Also, it is a crime to use force, threats, or fraud to get the witnesses to make false statements at the witness stand during a case.
California Penal Code Section 138(a) deals with individuals who give bribes to witnesses regarding escaping court attendance. It is a crime to offer money to a witness with a corrupt intent to influence the witness’s decision to attend a court trial. Also, if you receive a token from a person with an interest in a case to make you change your testimony or fail to appear for a trial, you will be charged with bribery. A conviction for Penal Code 137 or 138 may see you spend two to four years in jail.
Also, you will be charged with a violation of Penal code 147 if you were a witness in a case but received a bribe to corrupt your testimony or fail to appear for the trial. If you or your loved one is facing bribery of witnesses, it would be wise to consult an attorney.
California Penal Code 92 and 93 Pc – Bribery of Judicial Officers and Jurors
Penal Code Section 92 makes it a crime for someone to give a fine to a person deciding on a court case. It is considered a felony when one offers something of value to a judicial officer to influence their decision in a court case that involves you. Individuals covered under this law include jurors, judges’, umpires as well as referees.
Also, these judicial officers may get charged with bribery for accepting something valuable from someone else with the intent to influence their decision in a legal or official matter
California Penal Code 86 –Bribery by Legislators
This section of bribery law deals with bribery by legislatures. The following groups of people have considered under Penal Code 86 of California:
- Members of city legislative bodies
- Individuals who are members of county or school district legislative bodies
- State legislators
PC 86 makes it a felony for a legal officer to receive ask or agree to receive a valuable item with the intent to alter their decision and their vote on an official matter. Also, it is a crime for a legislative officer to try influencing the vote of their colleagues.
Penal Code 85 PC of California – Bribery of Legislators
You will be charged with bribery of a legislature by giving or offering to give something valuable to a government legislator so they can vote in your favor on official matters. Also, Penal Code 85 PC prohibits people from using menace deceit or coercion on a legislative officer to give or withhold their votes. If you are charged with bribery under these circumstances, you are likely to face extortion as an additional charge.
Bribery of or by Executive Officer and Public Employees
Under California Penal Code 67 it is a crime for anyone to give a token to an executive officer or a public employee with the motive of influencing their decision to favor you in a legal matter. Individuals considered executive officers or the district attorneys, police officers, among others. On the other hand, a public employee could be a traffic clerk or a building inspector. Executive officers are those whose job is done with the utmost discretion, while ministerial officers work under their bosses’ instructions.
Penal Code 68 prohibits the executive and public officers from accepting asking or agreeing to receive valuable items to influence their official decisions. The penalties that accompany bribery of federal and executive officers are severe and may include fines, jail time, and forfeiture of office as well as disqualification from holding office in the future. That’s why it is essential to have legal guidance in these cases.
Bribery of or by Supervisors and Public Corporations – Penal Code 165 pc
California Penal Code Section 165 pc deals with bribes given or received by local government officials. PC 165 makes it a felony for any person to offer or a supervisor to accept something of value to alter their actions. Individuals covered by this statue are the ordinary council members, city and county trustee members as well as the board members. To charge you with this offense, the prosecutor needs to establish that a thing of value was exchanged or promised to the public officer. Also, they need to prove that there is an official act that will get affected directly by the token offered. Finally, there must be an establishment of intent and coercion between the payment and the official actions to favor the individual who submitted the bribe.
Penalties for Violation of California Bribery Laws
Bribery is often considered a federal offense, mainly if the decisions that were altered by the bribe affected the public. If you are convicted for bribery, you will face one or all of the following penalties:
- For a misdemeanor bribery offense, you will serve jail time and imprisonment in state prison if your bribery offense is charged as a felony. Your sentence will range from two to four years.
- When the bribe was not received, you may be sentenced to a fine of up to $10,000.
- On the other hand, if the bribe was received, you will have to pay a fine equal to the amount given as a bribe or $2,000.For bribes involving a large amount of money, you will pay a $10,000 or a fine equal to the amount of bribe you received.
- Forfeiture of office. If you are a public officer, you will be forced to forfeit your office after a conviction for bribery.
In most instances, bribery is charged as a felony. The amount of time you spend prison, as well as the fines, will be determined by the category of corruption charges you are facing. Also, the amount of money and value of gifts given as bribe will affect the severity of your sentence.
Legal Defenses Against Bribery Charges in California
The penalties that accompany a conviction for bribery are severe. However, getting charged does not always mean you will be convicted. It is important to remember that there are defenses available for this charge. With the help of a competent criminal attorney, you can present the following arguments:
- Lack of Intent to Commit the Crime
There can be no conviction without proof of corrupt intent since bribery is a crime of specific intent. A prosecutor has to show that your actions were intended to influence or change another person’s decision. Sometimes you accidentally give a token to someone, and it seems like an attempt to bribe while you did not intend to do so. If you can show that what you gave a gift, you cannot be charged with this federal offense. With the help of your attorney, you can claim that you had no intention to alter an official decision, but the actions that are considered bribing were accidental. It can be quite difficult to successfully mount this defense; therefore, it is important to seek the services of an attorney.
Sometimes you may panic at a situation and then try to offer money or gift to get out of a legal case. Also, a gesture on concerned may be mistaken for an attempt to bribe a public officer. If you can successfully show that your actions were not replaced, then it may not be considered an act of bribery.
Voluntary intoxication is one of the defenses you can put up against a bribery charge in California. To successfully mount this defense, you must show that you were intoxicated at the time you tried to offer a bribe. Also, it should be clear that the level of your intoxication impaired your ability to formulate a corrupt intent to your actions.
Under California law, entrapment is a situation where law-abiding citizens induced to commit a crime that they have not perpetrated. Entrapment occurs when a public official makes you give a bribe through fraud, harassment, or threats. If the officer provided an opportunity but did not use force, you cannot use entrapment as a defense. Claiming entrapment is one of the arguments you can use to reduce the bribery charge you are facing. However, if you are alleging entrapment as a defense for bribery in California, you will bear the burden of proving more likely than not that the officer entrapped you.
You must note that you will only use this defense against law enforcement officers or individuals who act under their directions. Your actions in response to the solicitation will be compared to those of law-abiding citizens. Under the law, a law-abiding person is an average person who obeys the laws of society.
If you felt obliged to give or pay money to a public officer or a government official, you can argue the defense of duress. Some officers will threaten you or force you to give them bribes so they can make a decision that will favor you or your family members.
- Wrong Accusation
There are cases where you can be charged with bribery for donating to an elected official’s campaign. Especially if you are a developer, people may assume you are using the donation to get tender favors from the official. As long as you can show that your donation was legal and is within the campaign finance law, you will not get convicted.
Fight Bribery Charges with the Help of a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Bribery is considered a serious crime against society in California. Sometimes, an act that seems minor like offering money to a potential employer to get a job may get you convicted for bribery. Getting charged with this offense does not automatically mean you will get convicted. The penalties for bribery range from mere fines to a jail sentence since the offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, with the help of a competent criminal attorney, you can present several defenses to argue your case. If you need legal assistance from an attorney, call Los Angeles Criminal Attorney at 424-333-0943 today to discuss the details of your case.