Under California law, it is a crime to attempt to influence an official by offering a bribe. Accepting a bribe is also a crime in California. A conviction for bribery can result in jail time and fines. Anyone convicted of taking a bribe may also be prohibited from ever holding a public office in California.
Bribery in California
Under the California Penal Code, bribery is a crime that may involve a number of public officials or other individuals. This includes bribery involving:
California Penal Code § 7 defines a bribe as something that “signifies anything of value or advantage, present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking to give any, asked, given, or accepted, with a corrupt intent to influence, unlawfully, the person to whom it is given, in his or her action, vote, or opinion, in any public or official capacity.”
Bribery of a Public Official
Under California Penal Code § 85, it is a felony offense to offer anything of value to a legislator with a corrupt intent to influence the legislator's vote. This includes any member of state or local government, including “any member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district.”
Similarly, under California Penal Code § 67, it is a felony for any person to offer a bribe to any executive official in California with the intent to influence the executive in any act, decision, vote, opinion, or proceeding.
Bribery of a public government official is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.
Bribery of a Witness
Under California Penal Code § 137, it is a felony to offer or promise any bribe to any witness, person about to be called as a witness, or person about to give material information pertaining to a crime to a law enforcement official with the understanding that the bribe will influence the testimony of the witness.
It is also a felony to offer a bribe with the understanding that the witness will not show up for the trial or judicial proceeding. A witness who accepts a bribe with the understanding that the will be influenced by the bribe is also guilty of a felony.
Bribery of a Judge or Juror
Under California Penal Code § 92, it is a felony to offer a bribe to any judicial officer or juror with the intent to influence his or her vote, opinion, or decision. Penalties include imprisonment of two, three, or four years in state prison.
Under California Penal Code § 93, it is a felony for any judicial officer or juror to ask for, receive, or agree to receive a bribe with the understanding that the bribe will influence his or her vote, opinion, or decision. The penalties for accepting such a bribe include imprisonment for up to four years and restitution of between $2,000 and $10,000, or other amount based on the bribe received.
Accepting a Bribe
Under California law, it is also a crime for certain individuals to accept a bribe. This includes government officials and public employees.
Under California Penal Code § 86, it is a felony for any legislative member of a city, state, or local government district to ask for, receive, or agree to receive any bribe, on the understanding that the bribe will influence their official actions.
Accepting a bribe is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and pay restitution of between $4,000 and $20,000. However, in cases where a bribe has actually been received, the defendant may be required to pay at least the amount of the actual bribe, but not less than $4,000, up to double the amount of any bribe, up to $20,000.
Under California Penal Code § 165, it is a crime for any member of a board of supervisors, board of trustees, or member of a public corporation to accept a bribe upon the understanding that it will influence the member's vote, opinion, judgment or action. A conviction accepting a such a bribe is punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison. Additionally, upon a conviction, the member must forfeit his or her office, and forever be disqualified from holding any public office.
Penalties for Bribery
The penalties for bribery depend on the value of the bribe, individuals involved, and whether the bribe was offered or requested. Offering a small bribe may be a misdemeanor; however, most bribery offenses involve felony charges.
A conviction for felony bribery can result in imprisonment in the state prison for 2, 3, or 4 years. The defendant may also be required to pay a fine or restitution. If a public official is convicted of taking a bribe, they may also be prohibited from holding any office of public trust in the future.
Federal Bribery Crimes
Bribery of a federal official may be charged as a federal bribery crime. Bribery is included in the high crimes and misdemeanors in the U.S. Constitution. Federal bribery penalties include a fine of up to three times (3x) the value of the bribe and imprisonment for up to 15 years.
There are a number of possible defenses to criminal charges of bribery in California. What one person considers to be a bribe may be an offer for something unrelated to a public official's vote or opinion. For example, a donor may be offering a politician an election donation to support a particular candidate. This donation may be unrelated to the upcoming vote on a proposal that is in the donor's interest.
Experienced East Bay Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing criminal bribery charges or under an investigation involving alleged bribery, speak to an experienced East Bay defense lawyer. Lynn Gorelick has over 30 years of criminal defense experience and understands the penalties involved with bribery. Lynn Gorelick understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success.