Whether in your individual capacity or your business capacity, you may come across government officials from whom you need something. Perhaps you own a restaurant and need a liquor license or own a construction company and want to win a contract with the city, state or federal government.
Regardless of your connection to certain government officials, you may find yourself accused of offering a bribe in order to get what you want. If that happens, it could have serious repercussions on you personally and on your business.
What does the crime of bribery entail?
The law defines bribery as the offer or acceptance of something in exchange for something of value, such as that liquor license or construction contract discussed above. It's often the old adage of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" that makes it bribery. Using the previous example, you want a liquor license and the government official wants money to approve it when it's not appropriate or when it takes too long to go through the right channels.
Seems like a simple enough exchange, but it's illegal. One of the things that makes defending against bribery challenging is the fact that written proof of a "deal" is not necessary.
If the person accused of accepting the bribe is a federal employee
Under federal law, the following elements must be present to prove bribery involving a federal employee:
- The term "public official" includes elected officials down to rank-and-file employees.
- The bribe must influence the outcome of an official act.
- Something of value must be offered.
- The public official possesses the appropriate authority to commit the official act.
- Prosecutors much show that the "something of value" influenced the official act.
Prosecutors must also prove that the person accused of offering the bribe meant, or intended, to do so. There has to be more than just suspicion to prove guilt.
If you find yourself accused of bribery
If you discover you are under investigation for bribery, you have no time to waste. It would probably not be in your best interests to wait until police take you into custody to consider how you will respond to the allegations. Like other white-collar crimes, bribery can come with serious criminal penalties.
In addition, even facing charges could ruin your reputation, cost you your livelihood and alienate you from friends and family. Considering the potential ramifications to your life, you may benefit from taking immediate action to address the situation.