When you use money or any other item of value to influence the actions or decisions of another party, both parties are deemed to have committed bribery. Most people assume that bribery occurs only in public offices or among legislators. Still, the truth is that it happens even in the private sector, and in this context, it is referred to as commercial bribery. A sentence for this offense can result in a bad reputation, loss of career, and jail time. Luckily, at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we are here to provide defense against these charges.
Legal Definition of Commercial Bribery
Commercial bribery is defined under PC 641.3 as soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to receive money or something of value from another individual who is not your employer. You must have acted with corrupt intent, or without the consent of the employer, in exchange for using your position to benefit the person who offered you the bribe. Note that this statute doesn’t apply in cases where the amount of bribery involved is no more than 250 dollars.
The person offering or receiving a bribe can be convicted under PC 641.3 because the statute aims at protecting company royalty and ensuring workers don’t undermine the company owner or the company they work for. When someone receives or gives a bribe in a commercial or business setting, he or she is trying to undermine the company, and this action is punishable according to PC 641.3.
PC 641.3 offense is a wobbler that gives prosecutors the discretion to file misdemeanor or felony charges based on your record and circumstances of the case. During prosecution, the prosecuting attorney must establish the following facts:
- You, as the defendant, are an employee who solicits, takes, or decides to take a bribe, corruptly.
- At least two hundred and fifty dollars
- From someone who is not your employer or employer’s agent
- Without knowledge or consent from the company owner
- In exchange for using employment position to benefit the person who offered the bribe
The form of bribery happens in cases where a person is seeking an upper hand over another party in a business deal or contract.
Besides, it’s worth noting that for you to end up with a sentence, no money or gift needs to have been exchanged. Any signal or nod from both parties signifying that the issue at stake will be taken care of is enough evidence to prove commercial bribery. The reason being there is corrupt intent and action towards the plan.
Example of Commercial Bribery
The most common example of commercial bribery is kickbacks. It occurs when an individual looking for a business or trading contract offers an employee in a business a form of payment in exchange for obtaining a contract with the employee’s company.
Disk jockeys in the music industry also receive kickbacks or are offered money in exchange for giving a specific record more airplay, disadvantaging other musicians.
In sports, the person officiating a match or game may be offered a bribe so that to influence the results, something called match-fixing.
Penalties for Commercial Bribery
The consequences of a sentence for commercial bribery are based on the amount of bribe. If the value of the bribe offered is below one thousand dollars but not less than two hundred and fifty dollars, the offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The punishment for misdemeanor sentencing includes incarceration in a Los Angeles county jail for no more than twelve months.
Where the money or bribery involved is at least one thousand dollars, the offense is prosecuted as a felony. The punishment for a felony conviction is 16, 24, or 36 months in a county jail or state prison.
In cases of commercial bribery, the employer is usually the person that suffers losses. For this reason, the court might order you to pay restitution to the employer for the losses or damages stemming from commercial bribery.
Sentencing for commercial bribery might have immigration consequences, too, because it is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Under special circumstances, an alien is deportable if he or she ends up with a sentence for a PC 641.3 violation. The special conditions that could result in your deportation after a conviction include:
- If you have been convicted of commercial bribery whose sentence is at least 12 months, within five years after your entry to the U.S, you are deportable.
- You are sentenced for two crimes of moral turpitude arising from different transactions, occurrences, or criminal arrangements.
After deportation, you will have to wait for between five to ten years before applying for reentry in the United States.
Legal Defenses for Commercial Bribery Charges
PC 641.3 is a specific intent crime. This means that the prosecutor must prove that you accepted or offered a bribe with the intent to corrupt. In case the prosecutor fails to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt, your criminal attorney could assert that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate corrupt intent. However, the attorney will need to support this argument by providing facts that show you accepted the gift or money innocently and not to award a contract or do something that will benefit the person offering it.
Also, you will be innocent if nothing in your conduct shows that you were undermining your employer or doing something that might adversely affect the interest of the employer or the company you work for.
Remember that you won’t be convicted for commercial bribery if, at the time of offering or money to an employee of a company, you didn’t do it corruptly or to defraud the company owner. If the money or item of value was offered as a token of appreciation for the services provided, you are innocent.
Certificate of Rehabilitation
If convicted of commercial bribery, chances are you will lose your job and reputation. After getting out of prison, things will be even worse because, with your record, no employer will be ready to accept you in their company. It means you will lose your career and source of livelihood, too, and this will not only affect you but even the people who depend on you for financial support.
Luckily, you have the option of erasing the criminal record or applying for a certificate of rehabilitation. You are eligible for this certificate if:
- The commercial bribery charge led to prison incarceration
- You have at least seven years after completing prison sentence or probation
- For the seven years you have been out of prison, you have resided in California for more than five years.
Take note that if you are not a repeat offender or provide facts to show you have been actively taking part in community labor, the court might waive the seven-year waiting period. However, the court must do so in the interest of justice.
Before the certificate of rehabilitation is issued, you must appear before the court so that the judge can directly interview you on your activities and behavior during the intervening period after sentencing.
If you are successfully issued with the certificate, you will be eligible for a governor’s pardon. With the pardon, it means any public employer cannot turn down your job application based on having a criminal conviction.
The certificate will also act as proof of rehabilitation. With evidence that you have reformed from your old habits, potential employers, schools, or colleges and landlords will be willing to consider you.
Note that although a certificate can do some of the things listed above, there are particular things it doesn’t do. Some of these things include:
- Your sentence may be used to enhance or increase penalties if you commit a felony offense in the future.
- It doesn’t restore your rights to be under control or purchase a firearm
- You will need to disclose the conviction when running for a public office or making an application for a public job.
- Revelation is mandatory if you are applying for a state license with the State Lottery Commission.
- You will disclose the conviction when testifying under oath
Though it isn’t easily granted, a governor’s pardon can restore all your civil rights, including those of owning or purchasing a gun.
Many offenses are related to commercial bribery. These offenses are:
Bribery of or by a Public Official or Executive Officer
Bribery by a public official is a felony under PC 67, and it occurs when a person offers a valuable item to an executive officer or public worker to influence the official’s actions or decisions. The official receiving the bribe and the person offering it are all guilty of this offense. PC 67 is concerned with bribery of an executive officer while PC 67.5 focuses on bribery of ministerial officers or public workers. PC 68, on the other hand, is concerned with bribery of officers or public officials.
The offense is similar to commercial bribery; the only difference is that bribery focuses on corrupt dealings by public officials while the latter focuses on bribes in the private sector.
During the prosecution of PC 67 cases, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:
- You gave or offered a public employee or executive officer
- Money or anything of value or advantage
- To influence an official’s decision or actions while performing lawful duties
According to PC 68, it is a crime for:
- An executive officer or public employee to request, receive or decide to receive
- Cash or any other item of value
- To improperly influence the officer’s actions or decisions in legal functions
An executive officer is defined as any government agency worker who has the right to use discretion when undertaking official obligations. Ministerial officers, on the other side, are those employees who take instructions from superior authorities and have no discretion during the performance of official duties.
Also, it is worth noting that making the offer for bribery alone can result in a conviction, even if you didn’t receive the bribe or perform something to the advantage of the person offering the bribe.
Acting corruptly, in this case, means doing something to benefit yourself or another person illegally or to injure your employer.
If convicted with bribery, you will serve up to four years in prison and hefty fines. On top of prison incarceration, a public official or executive officer sentenced for receiving or soliciting bribes will lose their position and will be disqualified from applying or running for public office. The court might also require you to pay restitution fines of between two thousand to ten thousand dollars if the bribe was never received.
In case you received the bribe, you will pay a restitution fine of at least $2,000 or the real value of the bribe, whichever is greater. You could also pay an amount not larger than double the value of the bribe or ten thousand dollars, whichever is greater.
The fact that you might pay huge fines, end up in prison, or forfeit your office without the possibility of going back should make you fight charges of bribery by all means. Some of the assertions you can make to have the charges dismissed include claiming that it was a misunderstanding. When making this argument, you will need your Los Angeles Criminal Attorney to make the jury believe your side of the story.
You could also argue that you were voluntarily intoxicated at the time of bribery, to the extent you couldn’t formulate the necessary corrupt intent.
Bribery of or by Legislators
California PC 85 and PC 86 define bribery of or by a legislator as offering a legislator or other elected official cash or item of value to make the official vote in a particular way. Just like in commercial bribery, parties from both sides are criminally liable. PC 85 is concerned with cases of bribery involving legislative officers, while PC 86 focuses on bribery of or by legislators.
The elements of this crime under PC 85 include:
- You were giving or offering to give legislators
- Money or an item of value corruptly and to influence an official vote
Under PC 86, a legislator will be guilty if:
- He or she solicits, receives, or decides to accept
- Cash or anything of value
- To sell their vote in an official matter
Any person who holds a public office and has the authority to vote in policy matters is a legislator. Elected officials in school boards, senators, and city or county legislators are among the officials described under this statute.
Even if a legislator is offered a bribe and turns down the offer, a crime has already been committed. Offering a bribe alone completes the crime.
Upon conviction, a legislator might face jail time of no more than four years and hefty court fines. Additionally, the legislator will have to pay restitution and forfeit his or her office. The officer is also barred from vying for an elective post in the future. If the legislator is a lawyer, the practicing license will be lost.
Most legislators are arrested for bribery allegations during sting operations. If, as a legislator, an undercover officer threatens or coerces you to engage in conduct, you could not have otherwise engaged in; you could argue entrapment as your defense.
Bribery of or by Witnesses
When prosecuting cases, courts highly depend on witness testimonies as evidence. If you offer cash or advantage to a witness to try and influence their testimony, you may end up facing serious charges and a prison sentence. California PC 137a focuses on bribing a witness to influence their testimony about a crime while PC 138a is concerned with bribing a witness not to attend the trial.
The elements of bribery under PC 137a are:
- The defendant gave or offered a witness
- Money or something valuable
- To influence a witness’s testimony
The elements of this crime under PC 138a are also the same. The only difference is that the bribe is offered to prevent the witness from attending the trial and not from testifying.
PC 138b prohibits bribes by a witness regarding testimony or to prevent them from attending a trial. The statute is violated when:
- A witness solicits, accepts or decides to accept
- Money or an advantage
- To influence testimony or appearance in trial proceedings
Bribery of or by a witness is a felony in California whose punitive measures include court fines and penalty assessment fees and incarceration for up to four years in prison.
With a criminal defense attorney, these penalties can be avoided, but you have to put up the right defenses. And since most of the evidence is obtained through sting operations, you could assert that you were entrapped.
Bribery of Judges and Jurors
When you offer a juror, judge, or court official money or something valuable to influence their decision in a case, you are criminally liable under PC 92 & PC 93. You and the judge receiving the bribe will all be guilty of the crime.
Find a Commercial Bribery Attorney Near Me
If you have been charged with commercial bribery, reach out to the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney at 424-333-0943 for a free review of your case. Our criminal attorneys specializing in bribery will evaluate your case and devise defense strategies tailored to win your case.