Bribery charges generally involve allegations of offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving something of value for the purpose of corruptly influencing the actions of a person in a position of power or decision-making authority. Bribes may involve public officials, regulators, bureaucrats, witnesses, jurors, commercial agents, and many other persons, including foreign persons. The U.S. government has enacted numerous federal laws prohibiting many forms of bribery.
If you are convicted of bribery, you may face extensive fines and lengthy federal prison sentences. Having an aggressive and deft federal lawyer who has experience with federal bribery cases, and who is based in DC, can make all the difference in your successful defense against such claims.
DC law prohibits any person or entity from corruptly offering, promising, or giving a bribe to any public official. Second, the law prohibits any person defined as a “public official” from corruptly demanding, seeking, receiving, or accepting a bribe. The law defines “public official” as a member of Congress, an officer of the U.S. government, an employee of the U.S. government, any person who acts on behalf of or with the authority of any agency, branch, or department of the government, including the DC government, or any juror. DC Code criminalizes both sides of a bribery-related transaction.
To be convicted of bribery, the U.S. government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt these basic elements of the offense:
These three elements of the bribery charge are mirrored for offenses involving a public official who corruptly seeks or demands a bribe. Bribes of public officials may take many forms, such as monetary payments, transfers of property, or other gifts in exchange for votes, appointments, government contracts, or funding.
The statute additionally prohibits bribes involving a witness set to give testimony at a hearing, trial, or other court proceeding that are intended to influence the content of the testimony under oath or influence the witness to be absent from the proceeding.
The penalties under the statute for bribery of a public official or witness apply to all involved parties and may include the some or all of the following:
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was enacted in 1977 in response to the substantial bribery-related activity exposed during investigations extending from the Watergate scandal. An FCPA bribery offense is committed when a person makes, authorizes, or promises a payment or anything of value to any foreign official, foreign political party, candidate for foreign political office, or third person or middleman with corrupt intent for the purpose of influencing an official act or decision in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business.
The FCPA also consists of a separate “books and records” offense. Any person or company who knowingly makes materially incorrect entries in corporate books and records in order to hide foreign bribes or payments is committing a separate and distinct violation of law in addition to the substantive bribery offense. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department have made FCPA enforcement a national priority. Individuals prosecuted for FCPA violations face up to five years of imprisonment.
Commercial bribery charges can involve claims that bribes were offered to employees or agents of a company so that the individual or entity receives a business advantage over competitors. This type of bribery does not have to involve public officials to be considered unlawful. Types of alleged commercial bribery may include kickbacks, bribes of labor union representatives, and the rigging of bids in contracts. There are also laws that prohibit bribery in federal programs that may be administered by private companies and state or local governments.
Although there are no federal laws that expressly criminalize commercial bribery, the federal government may use the mail and wire fraud statutes (e.g., honest services fraud) or the Travel Act in order to prosecute commercial bribery. If mail, telephone, or the Internet is used as part of the alleged bribery, prosecutors may deem the bribery as a fraudulent scheme and may choose to prosecute under the theory of mail or wire fraud. Additionally, a prosecutor may use the Travel Act to bring charges against an individual if the so-called bribe involved interstate mail, travel, or communication, and the state in question has a law against commercial bribery.
If you believe that you are being investigated for bribery by the federal government or you have already been charged with bribery by the Department of Justice, it is imperative that you seek representation from a highly qualified criminal defense attorney with experience in federal bribery cases.
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