In the world today, receiving gifts and appreciating kind gestures is not uncommon. They appear to be innocuous acts of generosity. Yet, carrying it out in specific circumstances or involving certain individuals can make it controversial. Innocuous Acts Of Generosity Giving anything of value to someone else could be considered bribery in some circumstances,” says criminal attorney Jeffrey Litchman. Bribery occurs when someone offers or accepts something of value in return for influence over a public official or employee.
Bribes can be in the form of gifts or monetary payments in return for special considerations, like government contract awards. However, anyone accused of involvement in bribery may suffer harsh legal consequences.
When Does Bribery Become a Crime?
Generally, bribery turns into a crime when someone gives something of value to a public official to influence their legal obligations. Innocuous Acts Of Generosity Public officials consist of civil workers such as police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even judges. In this case, the perpetrator will approach the target and ask for a favor in exchange for a different offer such as financial compensation. However, the situation becomes a crime when one of these individuals is a public official because public officials have more power over the public than the average individual. The Briber may engage the other party in something that harms others but benefits a chosen few or just the two people in the criminal act.
The public official who receives or seeks a bribe may receive bribery charges. However, when an accusation of bribery involves private persons who do not occupy public office, the police usually do not investigate. Furthermore, bribery is a felony that can result in severe punishments such as years in prison and heavy fines.
Active Versus Passive Bribery
Bribery always requires two parties: the one who gives and the one who receives the bribe. The two parties represent the active and passive forms of bribery. Active bribery is when someone proposes, pays, agrees to pay, or tries to pay a bribe. Passive bribery is when someone demands, receives, agrees to collect, or attempts to receive a Bribe. Active and Passive Bribery identify the role of each participant in the exchange, which indicates whether they are the payer or the receiver.
However, these positions do not always show which party started the criminal actions. Thus, even when the initiator of the bribe is unknown, a public official who accepts a bribe commits passive bribery. Whether the corrupt contractor initiates it or the official solicited it himself, it is passive bribery.
Elements of a Bribery Charge
Bribery charges require proof that a government official gave or sought some official benefit in return for money or something else of worth. The official benefits include a recommendation, a vote, a decision, or the exercise of political influence. The individual offering the bribe or the official seeking it could face charges. Both parties could risk criminal charges if the deal is consented to or started. Furthermore, some evidence can serve as proof of bribery. For instance, a recorded phone conversation between a public official and a constituent soliciting a bribe can be proof.
Also, a police body camera video showing a driver giving the officer cash during a traffic stop could serve as evidence for a bribery charge. The federal government uses some elements to prosecute bribery cases involving federal workers. They are as follows:
The public official has the power to carry out the official act.
On the part of the bribing party, there must be proof of intent to achieve an intended result.
The prosecution must prove more than a suspicious coincidence by establishing a causal link between the payment and the act.
A public official is the recipient of the bribe. The public official includes both rank-and-file federal workers and elected authorities.
The action involves giving out something of worth. Whether tangible like money or intangible like the promise of power or official support.
Bribes can affect an official act.
Bribery of Public Officials
The most common type of bribery is the bribery of public officials. Innocuous Acts Of Generosity All states have laws prohibiting bribery involving public officials to combat public corruption. There was once a restriction of bribery to judges who accept money to make specific decisions. However, bribery laws have grown in scope over time. While some state bribery laws were previously solely limited to public employees, this is no longer the case. A public official, including one who acts as a volunteer, will suffer the same consequences as a public employee if convicted. Nowadays, bribery refers to giving or offering something of worth to a public official or employee in exchange for official action. The offer could also be in return for the public official not to do something legally required to benefit the defendant.
Actions Considered as Public Officials Bribery
The majority of bribery laws target the bribe giver. However, it is also a criminal act for a public official to receive or seek anything of value to induce specific actions. The following are examples of bribery involving public officials:
A Judge asking for a job for her child and in return will rule in a certain way in a future case.
Funding the re-election campaign of a county official in return for commercial contracts from the county.
Promising a legislator a fully compensated vacation if the legislator votes a certain way.
Bribing a health inspector with cash or drink in exchange for concealing a violation.
Getting Legal Help When Charged With Bribery
If there is a bribery accusation against you, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer. Generally, bribery is considered a felony, and a conviction can lead to a state prison sentence. Also, you may potentially lose your job or post if you are a government official. An attorney can provide you with information about what to expect in court and assist you in navigating the criminal justice system. The goal is to help you get the best possible result. The result may include dismissal, a good plea deal, or a sentence less severe than the maximum penalty.
Bribing someone or receiving bribes is an offense that can result in hefty fines and time in prison. However, it is not uncommon for someone accused of bribery to be found not guilty. Proving innocence, in this case, is difficult, necessitating the assistance of an expert attorney in defending against bribery charges.