Bribery is the criminal offense of offering, giving, soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept something of value with the intent to corruptly influence the action of a public officer. The acceptance of a promise by a public officer to take money in the future to influence his/her present official act constitutes bribery. Bribery is a crime which directly affects the state at large through its officers and representatives[i]. The offer or promise of a gift in an attempt to bribe is equal to a gift actually made for the corrupt purpose[ii]. Most jurisdictions provide statutory definitions for bribery although they are not uniform.
If a person delivers money to a public officer with the corrupt intention of influencing his/her decision in a matter pending before him/her, then such person is guilty of bribery. The officer will be held liable even if he/she receives money in ignorance and retains it solely for the purposes of public justice[iii]. In other words, bribery consists of any person giving or offering to give anything of value to any public officer or public employee directly or indirectly with intent to induce or influence such a person [iv].
Federal statutory regulations regarding bribery make bribery a punishable offense[v]. Similarly, bribery concerning programs that receive federal funds provides criminal penalties to anyone who gives, offers, or agrees to give anything of value to any person to influence or reward an agent of an organization or governmental agency.
Such influence must be in connection with a transaction that involves anything with a value of $ 5,000 or more, if the organization or governmental agency receives more than $ 10,000 per year in federal funds[vi]. The purpose behind this statute is to preserve the integrity of federal funds that support state government activities[vii]. However, the federal statute proscribing bribery of officials of entities receiving federal funds applies to both gratuities and bribes, if the intent to reward is corrupt[viii].
Generally, federal statutes relate to two classes of offenses: graft and bribery. Graft means an advantage which one person by reason of his/her peculiar position of superiority, influence or trust exacts from another. It also includes the fraudulent obtaining of public money by the corruption of public officials[ix]. The distinction between graft and bribery is that in graft, there is no need to prove the element of intent to improperly influence or be influenced by the transaction[x]. Similarly, bribery and extortion has to be distinguished. The essence of extortion is duress, whereas the essence of bribery is the voluntary giving of something of value[xi].
[i] People v. Patillo, 386 Ill. 566 (Ill. 1944)
[ii] Ford v. Commonwealth, 177 Va. 889 (Va. 1941)
[iii] Taylor v. State, 44 Ga. App. 387 (Ga. Ct. App. 1931)
[iv] State v. Davis, 92 N.M. 341 (N.M. Ct. App. 1978), see also Pino v. Rich, 118 N.M. 426 (N.M. 1994)
[v] 18 USCS § 201
[vi] 18 USCS § 666
[vii] United States v. Crozier, 987 F.2d 893 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1993)
[ix] Razete v. United States, 199 F.2d 44 (6th Cir. Ohio 1952)
[xi] People v. Ritholz, 359 Mich. 539 (Mich. 1960)