Bribery is a crime under both federal and state laws. You generally commit the offense if you try to gain favor with a public official by offering gifts or money in exchange for better treatment. The crime is charged as a serious felony and a conviction can result in as much as 15 years in federal prison. Please consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney now if you or a loved one is facing a bribery charge.
What is Bribery Under Federal Law?
18 U.S. Code 201 is the federal statute on the crime of bribery. Per this law, you are guilty of bribing a public official if you:
- Directly or indirectly give, offer, or promise anything of value to any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official, and
- Do so with the intent to influence any official act, any public official to commit fraud, or any public official to do or omit any act in violation of their lawful duty.
A public official is also guilty of bribery if that official:
- Directly or indirectly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to accept anything of value from someone, and
- Does so while being influenced in the performance of any official act, allowing any fraud to occur, or in an act in violation of an official duty.
For the purposes of this statute, a “public official” includes just about anyone who works for the federal government. This can include any employee or person acting on behalf of:
- The United States, or
- Any department, agency, or branch of the U.S. government.
What are the Penalties?
Bribery of a public official is punishable by:
- A fine of up to three times the value of the bribe, and/or
- Imprisonment for up to 15 years in federal prison.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. People charged with bribery can contest the charge with a legal defense. Please recall that you are only guilty of bribing a public official if you provide or offer something of value to an official with the specific intent to influence:
- Any official act,
- The commission of a fraud, or
- An act in violation of the official’s duties.
A common defense, then, is for an accused to show that he or she did not act with either of these aims. For example, you are not guilty of bribery if you provide a monetary donation to a public official in order to support the official’s re-election efforts.
You can also contest a bribery charge by showing that the police somehow violated your constitutional rights, like:
- Arresting you without probable cause,
- Conducting an unlawful search and seizure, or
- Coercing a confession.
Any of these acts can result in a federal judge dismissing or reducing your charges.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a bribery charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced federal crime attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on various bribery offenses. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers also have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!