What is Bribery?

At its core, bribery is the crime of giving another person, usually with some kind of power, something of value in exchange for influence over the other. The classic example is handing a professor an envelope full of cash to get an ‘A’ in the class. Under Minnesota law, there are two types of bribery, both of which are felonies:

Regular Bribery. Whoever does any of the following is guilty of bribery:

  • A) Offers, gives, or promises to give, directly or indirectly, to a public officer or employee, a benefit, reward, or consideration, that the public officer or employee isn’t entitled to get, with the purpose of influencing that public officer or employee in their job or position;
  • B) If the person IS a public officer or employee, and they request, receive, or agree to receive some reward or consideration with the understanding that it will influence the decisions they make;
  • C) Giving, offering or promising to give, directly or indirectly, some sort of benefit, reward, or consideration to a witness before any judge or in any hearing, for the purpose of influencing their testimony;
  • D) If the person IS a witness, and agrees to take a benefit, reward, or consideration for the purpose of influencing their testimony;
  • E) If the person has some information that would lead to the prosecution of a crime, and they accept, directly or indirectly, some kind of benefit, reward, or consideration to keep it quiet.

Commercial Bribery which is a special subset of regular bribery, focuses on unlawful influence in the business setting. Under this statute, it is a crime if an “actor,” usually an employee or contractor, offers, gives, or agrees to give, directly or indirectly, any benefit, compensation, or reward to their employer, or “principal” for the purpose of influencing their performance of duties within the scope of that business.

Likewise it is also a crime for the boss/employer/principal to offer, give, agree to give, indirectly or directly, any benefit, reward, or compensation to an employee, agent, fiduciary, or contractor for the purpose of influencing the performance of their duties in the scope of that business.

Federal law also has two types of Bribery, and both are similar. Here’s what the Government has to prove in order to convict someone of Bribery of a Public Official:

  • 1.
    The Defendant gave, offered, or promised something of value to a specific public official;
  • 2.
    At the time, the public official was, or selected to be, in an official public position;
  • 3.
    The Defendant did this act with the intent to influence or induce the official into doing, or not doing, something specific for the benefit of the Defendant.

Bribery at the Highest Level

Probably the most famous example of bribing a public official is that of Spiro Agnew, the disgraced former Vice President of the United States. He was investigated for taking kickbacks from contractors when he was the Governor of Maryland. He was known for getting wads of cash handed to him in paper sacks as he walked into the Capitol in Annapolis. But bribery of a public official doesn’t always have to involve someone in high office.

Spiro Agnew

Federal law also prohibits bribery of an agent of a program receiving federal funds, which could include lots of people working for non-profit organizations, educational institutions, construction companies, or social programs. Most of the people charged with bribery aren’t famous.

Here’s a real-life example: Mr. Hang was a man working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was charged and convicted of bribery when he was caught getting southeast Asian immigrants to paying him money to accelerate their applications for housing assistance. That was the case of United States v. Hang, 75 F.3d 1275 (8th Cir. 1996).

Do you need a lawyer for a charge of bribery? Yes! Catherine is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that defends against charges of Bribery. If you or a loved one have been accused of Bribery, she can help. Call today for a free consultation.