What is Bribery?

Bail bond for Bribery

Bribery Bail Bond

Basically, bribery most often refers to bribery of public officials, which is the giving of money (or something else of value) in exchange for a public official acting in a way that benefits the briber. Bribes are not limited to these cases, as they can take the form of payments or gifts in exchange for any favorable treatment; a clear example of this would be government contracts. Properties, various goods, privileges, services, and favors are also included in the bribe category. 

What Are the Elements of Bribery? 

When it comes to bribery, the two main elements are the public official being bribed, and the one doing the bribing. All with the goal of influencing or altering political or public actions. In most bribery cases, both the person offering the bribe and the individual accepting can be charged. It is important to know that bribery is not the same as extortion, as is often wrongly associated. Extortion uses threats of violence and other negative acts in exchange for compliance. 

The elements of Bribery are:

  • A public official is the one being bribed most of the time (government  employees on up to elected officials or sports players or academic employees)
  • “Something” of value is offered, whether it’s cash or the promise of influence, or official support
  • There must be an establishment of intent on the side of the bribing party, so to get the desired result
  • A causal connection between the payment and the act is established 

Some examples of bribery are a phone call between a politician and the party offering the bribe, a boxer offering another a payoff to deliberately lose and important fight, or a gambler offering to pay a basketball player to not score points. 

Is bribery considered a felony or a misdemeanor in California?

Bribery (both giving and receiving bribes) is usually a felony, punishable by a state prison term of one year or more. On the other hand, commercial bribery (for non-government officials) often carries less severe penalties, and it may be adjudicated as a misdemeanor.

In California, bribery of an Executive Officer is classified as a crime under the California Penal Code Section 67 PC, while bribery of Ministerial or Public Employees, is under Section 67.5 PC. Section 68 PC covers Officers and Public Employees as well. 

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines or jail time, but most misdemeanors are adjudicated in a shortened trial; and if the defendant is going to serve any jail term, then it would most likely be served in a local or county jail. On the other hand, a felony is the more serious type of crime and is often classified by degrees – being the first one the most serious. A felony is punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences that exceed the year. If a defendant is convicted of a felony, then jail time will be served in a state or federal correctional institution.

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