Intent is one of the elements that must be established to prove the crime of bribery[i]. Generally, a bribe requires that the payment be made with a corrupt intent. Corrupt intent is the intent to receive a specific benefit in return for the payment[ii]. The existence of a corrupt intent to influence the discharge of official duties is a necessary element of the crime of bribery. It is not necessary to show that the public official to whom the bribe was offered was actually corrupted by the offer. Similarly, there is no need to show that the official accepted the bribe. Some statutes make attempted bribery a crime and so long as a bribe is offered or promised with the requisite intent to influence any official act, then it is presumed that the crime is committed[iii].
Both the giving and receiving of a bribe are equally punishable and a specific corrupt intent to influence an official action is required[iv]. An official action must be free from improper motives of personal advantage and an intent to subject the action to such motives is a corrupt intent. Similarly, an intent to use the opportunity to perform a public duty as a means of acquiring an unlawful personal benefit or advantage by the person who receives the bribe amounts to a corrupt intent[v].
According to some statutes, the corrupt intent need not exist in the mind of both parties. It is sufficient if the intent exists in the mind of any one of the parties. The giver of a bribe is punishable under the statute and his/her offense is complete when he/she corruptly offers a bribe, even if the other party refuses it or takes it innocently[vi]. Similarly, one who accepts bribe is also punishable and his/her offense is complete when he/she corruptly accepts a bribe, even if the giver has no corrupt intent in offering the gift. Therefore, the corrupt intent can be personal and not joint in nature[vii].
The guilt of a bribe taker depends solely upon his/her own corrupt intention and the defendant cannot escape conviction upon the ground that the bribe giver had no criminal intent[viii]. Therefore, some bribery statutes do not require that an agreement be reached between the briber and the bribee but only require that the briber offer money or property to another with the subjective intent that he/she will induce some prohibited act in return[ix].
[i] Scott v. State, 107 Ohio St. 475 (Ohio 1923)
[ii] United States v. Jennings, 160 F.3d 1006 (4th Cir. Md. 1998)
[iii] United States v. Johnson, 621 F.2d 1073 (10th Cir. Okla. 1980)
[iv] United States v. McCrimmon, 60 M.J. 145 (C.A.A.F. 2004)
[vi] Minter v. State, 70 Tex. Crim. 634 (Tex. Crim. App. 1913)
[vii] People v. Frye, 248 Mich. 678 (Mich. 1929)
[viii] Sims v. State, 131 Ark. 185 (Ark. 1917)
[ix] United States v. Traitz, 871 F.2d 368 (3d Cir. Pa. 1989)