Bribery is the offering, promising, or giving of something of value, typically money or a pricey item, intending to exploit the action of a public official wrongfully. On the receiving end, a public official is guilty of bribery if they seek out, order, accept, request, or agree to receive or request something of value to use their public office as a tool to get that item of value.
Bribery is committed at the moment of offering or asking – it does not matter whether something of value was ever given. There must be an understanding between the two parties – what the law calls a “quid pro quo” or “this for that.” The public official must comprehend that by accepting the item of value, their vote, judgment, recommendation, opinion, or any other public act of discretion will be affected. The action must be related to the official’s public position.
Corruption of Public Officials
It is illegal for a public official to help, abet, aid, or attempt to commit a crime in connection with their role. Public officials include elected officials, appointed officials, public agency members, and other state or federal employees acting under official rights.
Types of corruption crimes include:
- Embezzlement of public funds
- Theft from the state
- Taking bribes as a public official
What Penalties Can a Public Official Face?
If a public official is found to be corrupt, they can be punished in many ways.
The laws differ from state to state, but standard forms of punishment include:
- Loss of pay or benefits
- Loss of retirement benefits
Several factors may enhance the punishment for accepting a bribe as a public official. If the official works in customs or border patrol or issues identification or immigration documents, they may obtain an enhanced penalty. This is in response to the expanded security of our borders brought on by the danger of terrorism.
What Is White Collar Crime?
“White-collar crime” refers to non-violent crimes typically committed for financial payoff. According to the FBI, “these crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust.” These offenses are typically inspired by either gaining money or avoiding losing cash, property, or benefits. Nevertheless, they may also be inspired by a need to secure a personal or business benefit.
The term itself is defined as a “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.” White-collar workers have historically been defined by office jobs and management, while blue-collar workers traditionally wore blue shirts while laboring in more physically demanding jobs.
White-collar crimes have expanded exponentially as new technology and financial developments have created new means of committing such crimes. Further, the internet enables multiple new white-collar crimes, such as fraudulent emails requesting help by sending substantial money.
Some definitions of white-collar crime only include offenses by individuals to help themselves. However, the FBI defines these crimes as “large-scale fraud perpetrated by many throughout a corporate or government institution.” The agency names corporate crime among its most elevated enforcement prerogatives because these offenses cause substantial economic losses to investors. Further, the FBI states that these offenses have the potential to cause significant harm to the U.S. economy, as well as investor trust.
What Can Happen to Me If I Am Accused of Bribery?
Bribery is a crime, and thus the punishment is given per state law. In many states, bribery is a second or third-degree felony, resulting in more than a year of prison time. Prison time of up to 10 years and a $20,000 fine may be imposed depending on the state and stringency of the harm caused by the act of bribery. The social consequence of being convicted of bribery can also be powerful because people will no longer see you as dependable.
What Is the Definition of a Felony?
A felony can be characterized as any criminal offense that results in one year or longer in prison. They tend to be crimes involving violence and are deemed dangerous or harmful to society. Felony crimes also include some of the most severe crimes that a person can perpetrate, such as first-degree murder and arson.
Crimes that do not amount to the status of a felony will usually fall into one of two other classifications: misdemeanors or citations.
What Are Some Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies?
There are two major distinctions between a felony and a misdemeanor offense. The first is that felony crimes are typically more severe than crimes considered to be misdemeanors. Felonies also tend to concern an act of violence.
The second contrast between the two is the form of retribution that a convicted individual can receive. Since felony crimes are regarded as more intense than misdemeanor offenses, it follows that their penalties are too.
If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor, they may have to pay criminal fines and could receive a jail sentence of no longer than one year. However, if a person is convicted of a felony, it can result in a prison sentence for at least one year or longer, and the fines will be more significant than those levied for a misdemeanor.
In addition, there is a third possibility that a person may receive called a “wobbler.” A wobbler refers to a crime between a misdemeanor and a felony offense. The events of a case will dictate whether the defendant will be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
If the crime is one of a non-violent nature and the defendant did not hurt anyone in the process, then the court may choose to administer a punishment that is more in line with a misdemeanor sentence. On the other hand, if the crime is violent, the defendant is a repeat offender, and they injured someone during the enactment of the crime, then the wobbler will more likely result in a penalty comparable to those given for felony offenses.
How Many Classes of Felonies Are There?
Felony offenses are typically categorized based on the gravity of the crime. Each state has its statute that delivers different guidelines on categorizing a particular felony offense in that state.
For instance, some states may categorize first-degree murder as either a Class A or Class 1 felony. These levels are earmarked for the most severe types of offenses and are those crimes that can result in maximum punishment.
What Are the Legal Defenses to Bribery?
Several defenses are available against bribery because it is a specific intent crime.
Some of the legal defenses for bribery are:
- No Intent: There can be no bribery conviction if there was no intent to bribe. This means that a defendant cannot be convicted of bribery if they did not mean to exploit the official by offering something of value.
- Intoxication: The defendant was too intoxicated to cultivate the necessary intent to commit bribery.
- Entrapment: The criminal defendant did not have the initial idea to commit bribery and was exploited by the police to commit the crime.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are involved in making or receiving a bribe or have been harmed through an act of bribery, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your rights and can help you raise a defense for your case if you are taken to court.