Most people are familiar with the concept of bribery. In legal term, bribery is defined as the practice of offering, giving, or soliciting money or a valuable item or service for the purpose of convincing an official to discharge his or her public or legal duties to convey an illegal advantage. Bribery is a federal offense and is classified into two categories: bribery and graft. The act of a public official leveraging his or her influence to fraudulently receiving money is referred to as graft. Therefore, Broward County officials who solicit or receive bribes may be accused of graft.

Bribery is a serious white-collar crime that could carry harsh prison sentences. Those accused need the help of an experienced Naples or Fort Lauderdale bribery defense lawyer.

Examples of this type of crime

If a person is formally accused of bribery, he or she may be charged under the General Federal Bribery Statute. 18 U.S. Code § 201 specifically lists the following acts of bribery:

  • A public official behaving with the intent to influence an official act in a manner that is in violation of his or her official duty;
  • Bribing an official with the intent to influence the official’s testimony under oath or affirmation before a court or committee;
  • Demanding a bribe in exchange for being influenced in giving testimony under oath in a court proceeding or refraining from testifying;
  • Offering bribery in exchange for the performance of an official duty;
  • Demanding a bribe in exchange for discharging public duty;
  • Giving anything of value personally in exchange for a person to give testimony under oath as a witness at a court proceeding;
  • Demanding anything of value personally in exchange for giving witness testimony in a court proceeding.

It is important to note that the bribery statute does not prohibit payments made to expert witnesses and other cases in which witness fees may be exchanged. In some cases, the General Bribery Statute may also be applied in combination with other federal laws that are aimed at preventing and penalizing obstruction of justice. There are also other federal laws prohibiting bribery that involves bank examiners, appointments to public office, loans and bank transactions, and the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Bribery cases may also include tried under the federal conspiracy statute.

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Bank bribery

Enacted as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Bank Bribery Act makes it illegal for anyone who is in connection with bank business to offer or give a bank official anything that is of value other than what is offered or given to the bank itself. The statute also makes it illegal for bank officials to request or receive anything of value other than what is given or offered to the bank itself. The term “bank officer” describes any employee, agent, director, attorney, or other office at a financial institution.

Proving bank bribery

There are four basic elements that make up the crime of bank bribery. Therefore, in order to obtain conviction against an accused person, prosecutors must prove:

  • The accused party offered or gave something of value to a person;
  • The accused did so knowingly, willfully, and corruptly;
  • The accused had the intent to influence or reward a bank officer or employee at a financial institution;
  • The alleged bribe was made in connection with any business or transaction with the financial institution.

If the government is attempting to prove a bank officer has violated federal bank bribery law, prosecutors must establish:

  • The defendant, as an officer or employee of a financial institution, solicited or accepted something of value
  • The officer or employee did so knowingly, willfully, and corruptly
  • The officer or employee had the intent to be influenced or rewarded
  • The solicitation or acceptance of the alleged bribe was made in connection with any business or transaction of the financial institution

Defenses against related charges

Defending a person against a bribery charge can be a little more complicated if the individual has offered or given something of value to a bank officer or government official. However, there are a few defenses that have proven to be effective in some cases in Broward County courts. Intent is a required element in obtaining a bribery conviction. Therefore, a defense attorney may gather evidence and interview potential witnesses who can point to his or her client’s lack of intent to commit bribery. Some cases are dismissed on lack of evidence. Therefore, if the defense can establish a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors on any of the required elements in the prosecution’s burden to prove bribery took place, the defendant is much less likely to be convicted. In some cases, an affirmative defense may be established to negate the defendant’s criminal liability. An experienced bribery defense attorney will work with his or her client to learn all the important facts surrounding the transaction and proceed to build the best case for his or her client’s defense.

Why you need a federal defense lawyer

Individuals who contact an attorney as soon as they become aware they are suspected of bribery tend to fare better than those who wait until later in the process to obtain legal counsel. Contacting a lawyer may seem like a major step to take, but the initial call will likely be relatively easy and low-stress. The attorney will simply ask questions to learn more about the situation, conduct a discrete, confidential case evaluation free of charge, then discuss options for proceeding in response to the allegation. A trustworthy, experienced federal criminal defense attorney will understand the potential professional and legal implications of being investigated for bribery; therefore, all information will be handled very privately and carefully with complete professionalism. To some people, bribery may seem like a lesser criminal offense; however, sentencing may require a convicted person to pay up to three times the value of the bribe or even be sentenced to up to 15 years in federal prison. Therefore, the stakes are much too high for anyone to ignore a bribery allegation or to attempt to answer the charges alone in Fort Lauderdale or Naples without the help of an experienced Broward County bribery defense lawyer.