Bribery of Official – What You Need to Know
Bribing an official is, despite its nonviolent nature, one of the most serious crimes you can be charged with and can carry severe monetary and social penalties. Here's what you can expect if you are charged with this crime and how a California criminal defense attorney can assist with your case.
What is Bribery of an Official?
Bribery of an official is a straightforward crime, but proving it requires showcasing an aspect of intent that a skilled defense attorney can utilize to prevent a conviction. According to California Penal Code 67, the prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant gave or offered a bribe to some executive officer in the state, or someone acting on the officer's behalf AND
- Did so with the explicit intention (corrupt intent) to unlawfully influence how the officer acts, decides, votes, or otherwise uses their powers for their official duties
Basically, bribery of an official occurs when someone gives a state or federal government official money or another valuable in exchange for some service or favor. An example would be offering a police officer $100 to avoid being given a speeding ticket, or offering a voter booth worker a new job if they swing the result of a local election.
Note that “bribe” does not have to be money but can be anything of perceived real-world or financial value, including jewelry, affection, a job, etc.
What Possible Penalties Exist?
Several penalties might be levied if you are convicted of bribery of an official. These may include:
- Fines of between $2000 and $10,000 if the bribe was not received OR at least the amount of the bribe received or $2000, whichever is greater, if the bribe was received
- Imprisonment in county jail or California State Prison for between two and four years
- Forfeiture of any state or federal offices or jobs you might hold
These penalties are quite severe because bribery is usually charged as a felony. But you may be charged with a misdemeanor if you are charged with bribing a ministerial officer with an amount worth less than $400.
Defenses to Charges of Bribery of an Official
Although bribery of an official is regarded as a serious charge, there are multiple defenses your counsel can undertake to protect you.
It's possible for someone to offer a public officer something valuable and for that officer to misunderstand the action as a bribe with corrupt intentions. For example, handing a police officer a cookie during the holidays is a nice gesture rather than a bribe, but it could be misinterpreted as a bribe under the wrong circumstances.
If a person is voluntarily intoxicated (i.e. drunk), they may do actions they would not consider otherwise. You can use this defense to justify your behavior if you offer a police officer or other official a bribe under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Police officers may be guilty of entrapment if the criminal idea – in this case, bribery – didn't start with the defendant. If it can be proven that the idea was planted in the defendant's mind by the official, they can't be convicted of bribery since they did not start their actions with the intent to bribe.
Why You Need a California Criminal Defense Attorney
Any bribery charge can lead to a complex and involved criminal case. Contact the Law Office of Peter James Chambers today for a free consultation and to see what one of California's best criminal defense attorneys can do for your case.