The idea that someone placed in a special position of trust by their community could misplace that trust by getting caught up in a bribery or kickback scheme can significantly affect their reputation. Unfortunately, we see these types of stories far too often where a mayor or government employee promises to do something in return for money or gifts. While our justice system prides itself on the idea of "innocent until proven guilty," a bribery allegation has the potential to blur this concept in the public's mind. That is why it is critical for someone facing a bribery allegation or charge to contact experienced defense counsel early on in the process. With the heightened public interest in a bribery case, an attorney can serve as an essential source of advice when crafting your defense and communicating with the media.

Title 18, U.S.C. § 201

Title 18, United States Code, § 201 establishes the crime of bribery. Under this offense, it is illegal for any federal public official to demand, seek, receive, or accept anything of value in return for:

  • Being influenced in the performance of any "official act";
  • Being influenced to commit any fraud on the United States; or
  • Being induced to do or omit to do any act in violation of the official's public duty.

Additionally, the bribery statute bars any person from giving, offering, or promising anything of value to any federal public official with the intent to:

  • Influence any official act;
  • Influence any public official to commit a fraud on the United States; or
  • Induce any public official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the official's public duty.
What is an “Official Act?”

What constitutes an "official act" in bribery cases remains a popular topic of discussion amongst legal scholars. In Valdes v. United States, the D.C. Circuit interpreted "official act" as "any decision or action within the scope of the public official's authority," where more recently, the Supreme Court in McDonnell v. United States interpreted the federal bribery statute's definition of "official act" narrowly, restricting its reach to formal exercises of governmental power.

Penalties for Bribery

The penalties for a bribery conviction are significant. Not only can one face a federal prison term of up to 15 years and a fine of up to three times the bribe's value, but you can also face disqualification from holding a public office. And punishment under the law does not even take into account the reputational harm that comes with a federal conviction. In addition to the possible prison sentence and fines, you might lose your opportunity to both work for and do business with the government. Government employees may also lose their federal pension.

Importance of Legal Counsel

If you or someone you know faces a federal bribery charge, do not delay hiring experienced defense counsel. The earlier an attorney gets involved, the better one’s defense. Not only can legal counsel begin building the case, but they can handle issues related to subpoenas, inquiries from investigators and the media, but most importantly, work to ensure your rights are protected. With so much on the line––your reputation, livelihood, and personal relationships––having an attorney fighting on your behalf can give you peace of mind knowing that someone has your back.

Peter Katz is an experienced former State and Federal prosecutor who has prosecuted many white-collar cases during his two-decade career. Peter is ready to bring that experience to your case and work tirelessly on your behalf to protect you and your rights. Call the Law Offices of Peter Katz at (609) 734-4380 or online to begin preparing your defense today.