Featured News 2020 How Is Bribery Defined & Who Can Be Charged?

How Is Bribery Defined & Who Can Be Charged?

In 2012, well-known lobbyist Richard Lipsky pleaded guilty to paying bribes to a state senator in return for “official actions” to benefit his clients. He was one of eight people arrested in a broad corruption case that also included Carl Kruger, a Democratic state senator representing Brooklyn. Kruger resigned in 2011 amidst allegations and also pleaded guilt to corruption charges.

Mr. Kruger’s crimes included lobbying elected officials on Mr. Lipsky’s behalf, directing state money toward Mr. Lipsky’s clients, and sponsoring legislation that would benefit them directly. Mr. Lipsky’s clients included beverage distributors and food retailers, as well as a coalition of small supermarkets and bodegas.

This case highlights the often fine line between corruption and lobbying.

If you’ve been charged with bribery (either accepting a bribe or attempting to bribe an official), speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to build your defense.

How Bribery Is Defined

Bribery is a crime in which a person trades something of value (e.g. money, information) in return for a public official (or a person in a position of trust) to make a decision or use their authority to benefit the briber. Bribery usually takes the form of trading cash payments for the use of an official’s authority to their benefit. Any public official can be charged with bribery, including members of Congress, judges, agency officials, and others.

It is illegal to either offer or receive a bribe. Federal punishment for bribery includes up to 15 years in prison, as well as a fine as large as three times the value of the bribe.

Who Does the Bribery Act Apply To?

In 1962, the Bribery Act was passed to protect government interests. Though this act was put in place to specifically protect the government from any illegal activity taking place among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, it also pertains to a wider group of individuals among the public. Besides federal judges, those who work for private agencies and are paid by the government are also responsible to uphold the 1962 Bribery Act; also, witnesses in any government endeavor are also responsible for obeying this act. This statute does not apply to those who work in private sectors such as state and local offices.

Through this act, difficulties have arisen from distinguishing what constitutes a punishable act. Some argue that this act is too harsh since, under the law, tipping your mailman with a Christmas bonus would be punishable under the gratuity clause.

Also, the following are considered unlawful:

  • Certain political endorsements
  • An agreement not to run for office
  • “Log-rolling,” a process by which politicians trade votes for benefits

Bribery Defenses

One defense that is available is the entrapment defense. “Entrapment” would mean that a person being bribed was forced to accept the offer. Certain states do not accept this defense, but there are specific cases where this is a viable option; it must be proved that a government official was coerced by certain circumstances created by the briber for them to feel pressure to reveal pertinent information.

Consequently, this defense will not work if you were the one who bribed the other person or initiated the exchange. Many times, a court will investigate this claim if the evidence shows that a person was induced by someone to accept the bribe. When this happens, a jury will also be instructed as to the meaning of an entrapment plea and will be convinced to consider the defense. Therefore, it may be poignant to discuss this defense with a legal counselor in order to secure a possible acquittal.

A skilled criminal defense attorney might have some other key defenses to fight this charge in court; do not delay to contact a skilled attorney today.

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