Bribery may be commonly associated with politicians and the police, but does not have to involve shady criminal types and corrupt public officials. In fact, there are several statutes covering bribery in California’s penal code, covering everything from employees of businesses to parties involved in the state’s justice system. Almost everyone accused of offering or accepting a bribe will face criminal charges, so always speak with a criminal defense attorney if you are facing these serious charges.
What is considered bribery?
California law defines bribery as “anything of value or advantage, present or potential, or any promise or undertaking to give anything, whether solicited, given or accepted, with the corrupt intent to unlawfully influence the person to whom it is given, in his or her business or His vote or opinion in any public or official capacity.” While this definition is a bit wordy, this helps ensure that it covers all potential instances of illegal bribery, which are more precisely defined in individual penal codes.
It is worth noting that in most cases, it does not matter whether the bribe offer or demand was successful or if the other party fulfilled their part of the bargain. Simply offering a bribe or asking someone to do it is enough to violate the law. Likewise, while most people imagine these situations involve suitcases full of cash, there is no need to use money, and even offering to do a favor for someone can violate the law.
What are the different types of bribery in California?
California has multiple criminal statutes that address various bribery crimes. Most people accused of bribing someone face charges of providing money, property, or other benefits to:
- executive officer, meaning a law enforcement official or prosecutor, 67 (PC)
- Legislator, 85 (PC)
- Judge, judicial officer or juror, 92 (PC)
- Witness, 137(a)(PC)
- A local government official, including a member of the city council, board of trustees, board of supervisors, or other public corporation, 165 (PC)
- Athlete, coach, or referee at a sporting event, 337(b)(PC)
The state has separate penal laws for those who illegally solicited or accepted bribes, specifically:
- An executive, departmental official (such as a clerk, inspector, or public employee working in the State of California, 68 (PC))
- Legislator or other elected official, 86 (PC)
- Judge, judicial officer or juror 93 (PC)
- Watch, 138 (PC)
- Athlete, coach, or referee at a sporting event 337(c) (PC)
- Any employee 641.3 (PC)
With so many different charges, these laws can be very complex. If you have any questions about state bribery laws, contact a defense attorney as soon as possible if you believe you may be under investigation for one of these crimes.
Is bribery a crime?
While there are many different forms of bribery under the law, the punishment is the same for almost all of these crimes. Most of these crimes are felonies that carry a maximum penalty of four years in prison, although probation is also a possible penalty at the judge’s discretion. If the bribery operation is not completed, violators will face a fine between $2,000 and $10,000. If received, the fine could be up to twice the amount of the bribe or $10,000, whichever is greater.
The two exceptions are sports bribery, directed under Section 337 (PC), and commercial bribery, directed under Section 641.3 (PC). These are both volatile crimes, meaning they can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. As felonies, these crimes are punishable by up to three years in prison, while the maximum penalty for misdemeanors is one year in prison.
In addition to imprisonment and fines, those convicted of these crimes will also suffer employment consequences. Public officials, such as judges or legislators, will lose their office and will not be eligible to regain it if they are convicted of bribery in California. Although there is no law requiring private sector employees to lose their jobs, most will likely also find themselves unemployed, and potentially lose anything Professional licenses They have.
Fighting bribery charges
Bribery is often difficult to prosecute because it relies on specific criminal intent. Since people rarely write a letter saying, “Here’s the money I’ll bribe you to do what I want,” it’s often difficult to prove that someone intended to wrongly influence another person. Many of these issues come down to jurors’ opinions on whether or not the defendant had criminal intent.
For example, if you run a landscaping company and offer free services to a politician who votes on an issue that could affect your business, that may seem unethical. However, it may still be difficult for the prosecution to secure a bribery conviction unless they can prove that you had corrupt or wrongful intent in providing the free services. In this case, your defense attorney may be able to convince the jury that your efforts were not for bribery purposes but that you want the legislature to testify how the proposed law could affect your business.
If you have been charged with accepting or offering bribery in California, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with defense attorney Peter M. Lees.