San Diego Bribery Defense Lawyers
Accusations of bribery can have a serious effect on your life, whether you were accused of soliciting or accepting a bribe, or of offering one. Bribery charges can result in serious prison time, significant fines, and even remove a government official from office, in addition to the long-lasting effects on your career and reputation. California bribery laws are complex and thorough, and you should not go up against them without the expert legal aid of a San Diego criminal defense attorney.
Generally speaking, bribery is the act of providing payment or gifts to a public official or private individual in order to convince him or her to commit an illegal act or violate their official duties, as outlined by California Penal Code Section 7. While this law outlines the broad definition of bribery, California Penal Codes outlines multiple violations that can occur depending on who is being offered a bribe.
Within the State of California, bribery can include any one of the following parties:
- Elected officials, California Penal Code Section 85 and 86
- County supervisors, California Penal Code Section 165
- Public corporations, California Penal Code Section 165
- Witnesses, California Penal Code Section 137 and 138
- Jurors and judicial officials, California Penal Code Section 92 and California Penal Code Section 93
- Commercial bribery, California Penal Code Section 641.3
Bribery laws are designed to outline charges for both individuals who offer a bribe and individuals who accept a bribe, even if he or she does not mean they have the ability to fulfill the bribe.
While most bribery laws pertain to public officials such as politicians or police officers, bribery can include employees of private businesses. This is referred to as commercial bribery, and the requirements for a conviction differ from bribery cases involving public officials. In addition to the requirements to prove a bribery charge, commercial bribery features different penalties. It is important to contact a criminal defense who has a clear understanding of the different elements of bribery cases involving public officials and private individuals.
Due to the broad nature of bribery in California, the court systems require that prosecutors prove specific elements of the crime to result in a conviction. In most cases, a bribery charge must include:
- An individual who gives or offers a bribe to a public official (legislature, juror, witness, etc.)
- Material of value, such as gifts or money
- Corrupt intent
- The desire to influence an individual’s authority or opinion in an official manner
Commercial bribery employs a similar set of requirements, with a few additional steps:
- An employee of a private company who requests, accepts, or agrees to accept a bribe
- A bribe valuing $250 or more
- Someone who offers the bribe (other than the employee’s employer)
- The employer must have no knowledge or have consented to the offer
- The bribe must be solicited in exchange for anything that may benefit the individual offering the bribe, such as information, goods, or services
California penal codes include both the individual offering the bribe and the individual who solicits or accepts the bribe. When reviewing the different elements of a bribery case, the prosecutors are also required to prove each element of a bribery charge beyond a reasonable doubt. However, while beyond reasonable doubt may be difficult to prove, it is important to understand that a conviction can be made even if a bribe was not accepted. The court system also does not care if the individual who offered the bribe had the authority to fulfill it.
Bribery is viewed as a specific intent crime that involves corruption, and the law is designed around punishing that corrupt intent. Building a defense against bribery charges requires a clear understanding of how the prosecution will attempt to prove intent, and with his experience as a California police officer, our attorney James N. Dick has first-hand insight into the methods prosecutors will use to achieve a conviction.
California laws generally treat bribery as a felony offense, and bribery charges can result in imprisonment in a county or state jail, but also damages to your professional reputation and career. Penalties for bribery convictions involving public officials in California include:
- Two to four years in a county jail or California state prison
- A restitution fine that varies based on whether the bribe was accepted or not
- Loss of a government position, when applicable
When determining the fine, the courts consider two scenarios:
- If the accused accepted the bribe, they are required to pay double the amount of the bribe.
- If the accused did not receive the bribe, they are required to pay between $2,000 and $10,000.
In contrast, being accused of commercial bribery can result in:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for up to a year if the bribe was less than $1,000 or
- Imprisonment in a county jail or California state prison for up to three years if the bribe was more than $1,000.
Generally, to the court, the value of the bribe pales in comparison to the punishment. Bribery charges, even for small amounts, can have serious financial and social impacts on your life, so it is important to bring your case before an experienced white collar crime defense lawyer.
The broad language and definition of bribery make context key in a bribery case. Why and how a bribe was offered or solicited could be the key to a strong defense. Because the prosecutor must prove that the bribe involved corrupt intent, there are a number of defenses available to defendants, including:
- Misunderstanding: Was the bribe a genuine gift with no thought about repayment? Was the nature of a business deal misinterpreted? Was a message misconstrued? In cases of misunderstanding, your attorney can outline the original intent behind the gift or service to clarify the situation for the jury.
- An act of mistake: We all make mistakes in high-stress situations, such as during an arrest or a difficult business negotiation, but that does not mean that these mistakes were made out of corrupt intent. An argument for “an act of mistake” will not be the entirety of your defense, but it can help provide context for the jury to understand your mindset.
- Intoxication: Alcohol and drugs can negatively impact our ability to make decisions and thoroughly think through our words or actions. If you were intoxicated at the time of the alleged bribe, your attorney can argue that you did not have the mental capacity to form intent.
- Entrapment: In a case involving entrapment, the criminal intent does not originate with the defendant, but often an individual of authority, such as a police officer. If an officer of the law suggests that a defendant offer a bribe to avoid jail time and then arrests him or her for bribery, then the officer could be charged with entrapment and the bribery charges dropped.
When you bring your case before a criminal defense attorney, they will thoroughly review the various aspects of your case to properly measure the chances of success. This can include outlining your side of the story, what were the intentions behind the bribe.
Accusations of bribery can have a devastating effect on your life, so it’s important to get ahead of the charges. Our firm is well-established in the San Diego justice system and has an established record of reaching positive outcomes at trial. Contact jD LAW today at (760) 630-2000 to start a thorough review of your case and discuss all the options available to you.
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