What Is Bribery Under Federal Law?
Bribery, generally speaking, refers to the exchange of goods or money for favors, influence, or access. Under 18 U.S. Code § 201, bribery is defined as:
- demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive anything of value (directly or indirectly) in return for being induced to do or omit any action that violates their official duties, being influenced to perform a certain act, or being influenced to commit or help in the commission of any fraud as a public official, and
- giving, offering, or promising (directly or indirectly) anything of value to a public official or person who has been selected to be a public official with the intent to influence any official act or the public official’s involvement in the commission of fraud or to induce such a person to do or fail to do their lawful official duties.
Here are some important legal definitions to be aware of concerning bribery laws:
- A public official refers to a Member of Congress, a state delegate, an officer, employee, or person acting for the U.S. or any branch or agency in or under the authority of the Government, or a juror.
- A person who has been selected to be a public official refers to any person appointed to or nominated to be an official.
- An official act refers to any decision or acts regarding a matter, cause, controversy, question, or cause that is pending or that may be brought before the public official in an official capacity or in a place of trust.
The Different Types of Bribery
Bribery can occur, between individuals, businesses, and government officials. It can also occur on an international level. We will discuss the various types of bribery in further detail below.
Individual bribery typically involves the transfer of goods or money from one person to another in exchange for some sort of favor. This type of bribery often occurs when someone provides the briber with preferential treatment to gain something that would otherwise not be available. For example, an individual may bribe a police officer for leniency during a traffic stop or pay an engineer to provide them with project plans that have not yet been released to the public.
Business bribery is more commonly referred to as corporate corruption and usually involves companies offering incentives such as money, favors, or services in order to influence business decisions or secure contracts from clients. These types of bribes can range from small gifts such as meals and tickets to larger payments directly into bank accounts and offshore investments. In some cases, businesses may even offer kickbacks to employees to sway their decision-making process when it comes to important contracts or projects.
Governmental bribery refers to any action taken by a government official using their position of power and authority in order to receive personal gain through bribes or other methods of corruption. This type of bribery is considered particularly serious as it can have wide-reaching implications on the country’s economy/society and its citizens if left unchecked by authorities. Examples of this type of bribery include:
- accepting gifts from lobbyists,
- creating favorable tax laws for certain companies, and
- approving large government contracts without proper vetting processes being followed first.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for a U.S. company or individual to bribe a foreign official with the intent to obtain or keep business. Under this act, foreign companies and people are also prohibited from committing acts of bribery while in the U.S. or its territories.
Penalties for Bribery Charges
Bribery of a public official is punishable by up to 15 years in federal prison and/or a fine of up to three times the value of the bribe. However, if you violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, you can face other penalties: While companies can face fines of up to two million dollars for such violations, officers, employees, stockholders, company directors, and agents of those companies can face imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
Trusted & Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested or are under investigation for committing a bribery offense, you can trust our firm to help you protect your rights, freedoms, and reputation. The Wiseman Law Firm is backed by decades of legal experience, and our attorney can offer you personalized legal counsel. Whether you are facing white-collar charges under Florida or federal law, our attorney can craft a solid defense strategy, help you make informed case decisions, and obtain the best possible results.
Contact our firm today to schedule a free initial consultation by calling (407) 708-9127.