A person commits the offense of bribery if he or she intentionally or knowingly offers, confers or agrees to confer on another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept a benefit as consideration for the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, voter, or exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or for any violation of a duty imposed by law on a public servant or party official.
Implicit in the bribery statute is the requirement of quid pro quo, that is, an agreement to exchange any benefit, for the exercise of discretion as a public servant. The term “benefit” has a specialized meaning as it relates to the bribery statute, which is: anything regarded as pecuniary gain or pecuniary advantage, including a benefit to any other person in whose welfare the beneficiary has a direct or substantial interest.
It is no defense to prosecution that the person the actor sought to influence was not qualified to act in the desired way, or that the benefit is not offered or conferred or solicited or accepted until the exercise of discretion has occurred.
The intent of the Legislature in enacting the bribery statute was to prevent those who are public servants from accepting a benefit to exercise their discretion as public servants simply for personal gain. The bribery statute also seeks to hold those people that want to induce them to exercise their influence as public servants a particular way, from offering the public servant a benefit to exercise their discretion in a way that personally benefits them.
Bribery involves a quid pro quo that the recipient will make decisions desired by the payor. In short, the bribery statute exists to prevent corruption of public servants and those who attempt to corrupt them for personal gain.
Although these types of cases would seem straight forward, they can be extremely complex, not only for the prosecutor, but also for the defense. The law of parties can apply in bribery cases, which means that if the evidence shows that acting with the intent to promote or assist in the commission of the offense occur, you solicit, encourage, direct, assist, aide or attempt to aid another in the commission of the offense. That means if you were involved, not in the actual agreement between one of the parties to offer or accept a benefit, but you transferred the money from one party to another, for instance, you can be convicted just as if you were the one who offered, conferred, or agreed to confer the benefit to the public servant yourself.
Under the theory of the Law of Parties, the jury may consider events occurring before, during and after the commission of the offense and rely on the actions of the defendant which show an understanding of the common design to do the prohibited act.
The prosecutors must be able to prove a bilateral agreement to exchange a benefit as consideration for the performance of an official function when the indictment alleges that a benefit was conferred or accepted. However, when it is alleged and proven that the defendant offered a proscribed benefit, it is not necessary for the State to further prove that the offer resulted in a bilateral agreement or unlawful contract with the other party. The offense of bribery is complete when the offer is made. The defense lawyer must closely evaluate whether there was a benefit and what the indictment alleges the benefit was consideration for.
When an indictment alleges that a public servant offered or solicited a benefit as considerativon for his exercise of discretion in performing an official act, the prosecutors do not have to prove the party to who the solicitation was made even accepted or understood the unlawful nature of the proposition. It is enough if the evidence shows that the offer or solicitation was made by the accused with the purpose to facilitate the exchange of the benefit for the official act.
Bribery occurs when the offer or acceptance of the offer is made. Not when the official exercise of discretion occurs. It does not matter if the agreement is carried out or not.
Bribery is a second degree felony punishable by not less than 2, nor more than 20, years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.
If you have been accused of bribery you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Matt Bingham is an expert attorney who can handle your case. Contact his office today to schedule a free legal consultation.