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Solicitation and Attempted Bribery

Bribery attempts are often very subtle and are preceded by attempts to do small favors for or give gifts to an employee. Bribery is a violation of the law.  The solicitation or acceptance of a bribe is a also a serious breach of the public trust.

The difference between an attempt to bribe and the actual passage of money or property as a bribe is of little practical importance where the definition of the crime includes an attempt to commit it. This was true at common law and is often true under statutory definitions of bribery. However, separate statutes may be enacted to proscribe a bribery and an attempt to bribe and different punishments may be prescribed for the separate offenses.

Va. Code § 4496 (1936) places the corrupt gift, the offer, and the promise all on the same plane. It defines each of such acts as bribery and provides the same punishment. An attempt to corrupt, evidenced by an offer or promise of a gift, constitutes bribery on the part of the offeror or promisor as if a corrupt gift had been made and accepted. The gist of the offense is the criminal intent to undermine the proper and orderly administration of justice. The crime is committed by the making of the corrupt offer[i].

Further, Ill. Crim. Code § 32 provides that every person who shall offer or attempt to bribe any state’s attorney or other officer ministerial or judicial, every such officer who shall propose or agree to receive a bribe shall be fined[ii].

Where an attempt to bribe is punishable as bribery, the mere tender of a bribe or the expression of an ability and a desire to pay a bribe may be sufficient to constitute the offense. However, a charge of attempted bribery cannot be sustained in the absence of some contact, communication, or conversation with the person alleged to have been bribed.

Apart from an attempted bribe, solicitation of a bribe is also a crime. It is also a criminal offense under various statutes.  Under state statutes, it has been held that mere solicitation of a bribe does not constitute bribery or an attempt to receive a bribe. However, the general federal bribery statute applies to persons who “demand” or “seek” anything of value for the purposes prohibited by the statute.

In State v. Wallace, 214 A.2d 886, 889 (Del. Super. Ct. 1963), solicitation means the asking, enticing, or requesting of another to commit a crime of bribery.
To constitute the crime of solicitation of a bribe, it is not necessary that the act be actually consummated or that the defendant profit by it.  It is sufficient if a bribe was actually solicited[iii].  

If any person corruptly gives, offers, or promises to any executive, legislative, or judicial officer, or to any candidate for such office,  either before or after he shall have qualified or shall have taken his seat, any gift or gratuity with the intent to influence his act, vote, opinion, decision, or judgment on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding, which is or may be then pending, or may by law come or be brought before him in his official capacity, he shall upon conviction, be confined in the penitentiary not less than one or more than ten years.

[i] Ford v. Commonwealth, 177 Va. 889 (Va. 1941)

[ii] People v. Peters, 265 Ill. 122 (Ill. 1914)

[iii] State v. Wallace, 214 A.2d 886, 889 (Del. Super. Ct. 1963)

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