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Criminal Defense Information for Bribery (Cal. Penal Code s. 7)

  1. What is Bribery?
  2. How is Bribery different than extortion?
  3. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Bribery?
  4. What is the sentence / punishment for Bribery?
  5. What are possible defenses to charges of Bribery?
  1. What is Bribery?

    Money in envelope for a bribe

    Money in envelope for a bribe

    Generally speaking, a bribe is "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." Cal. Pen. Code s. 7 Opens in New Window.

    It is important to note that Bribery is not a one way street–it is not just the person who offers money who is guilty of bribery. If the recipient agrees to take the money or actually does take the money, he is also guilty of Bribery. Additionally, an official who solicits a bribe by suggesting to someone that if the person gave the official $10,000, for example, the official would look the other way for a violation is himself guilty of soliciting a bribe. See, for example, Cal. Pen. Code s. 93 Opens in New Window and Cal. Pen. Code s. 68 Opens in New Window, among others.

    Of course, there are statutes that deal with specific instances of bribery. For instance:

  2. How is Bribery different than extortion?

    Bribery is the offering or giving of something of value in exchange for a particular act or item from an official. Extortion is using threats, fear, or color of authority to get property from someone with their "consent" or using those devices to coerce an act from an official.

    In other words, extortion uses threats to get a particular result and bribery uses money or other valuable goods to get the desired result.

    See the extortion law at Cal. Pen. Code s. 518 Opens in New Window.

  3. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Bribery?

    As mentioned above, there are many bribery statutes that each have their own specific nuances. In general, though, to prove the defendant committed Bribery, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Offered to give something of value;
    2. To another person; and
    3. Intending to unlawfully influence the person who received it.
  4. What is the sentence / punishment for Bribery?

    Since there are so many specific statutes on Bribery, it is not practical to discuss them all here. Rather, the important facts to know are that Bribery is a felony in nearly every case and can result in fines, prison time, restitution, and loss of your job. In a couple very minor instances of Bribery, the crime may be a misdemeanor, but those are relatively rare.

  5. What are possible defenses to charges of Bribery?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Bribery, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Bribery, some of these justifications include:

    • Accident;
    • Alibi / Mistaken Identity;
    • Coerced Confession;
    • Double Jeopardy;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Entrapment;
    • Insanity;
    • Necessity;
    • Self-Defense / Defense of Others;
    • Statute of Limitations;
    • Unconsciousness; and
    • Voluntary / Involuntary Intoxication.
See also, Extortion.