There are crimes that most people don’t even think of or fear unless they end up directly involved. Bribery isn’t something you can see or feel, but it can have devastating effects that can land either the defendant or their victim in jail for years.
The State of California doesn’t take this crime as lightly. Even though each specific county can enforce bail and carry out the sentence of someone charged with bribery, it is California that decides what constitutes the crime and the punishments that are required by law.
What is Bribery?
California Penal Codes 92 through 95 directly deal with bribery. Anyone who makes or receives any offer of advantage or value with the intent that the offer is made to unlawfully influence a person’s action, opinion or vote in any official or public capacity has committed bribery. This means a person is guilty of the crime whether they are the one making or receiving the offer. Even if the exchange of advantage or value doesn’t occur, the mere agreement to or offer of the bribe constitutes bribery.
The statutes refer to bribes made to public officials who include police chiefs, judges, police officers, senators, councilmen and several other people in trusted positions. Even in instances where an official doesn’t technically have authority over a specific decision, bribery can still occur if the official or person making the offer to the official believed that the officer was working within their official capacity and had the ability to influence a specific decision.
It is not necessary for a bribe to be accepted, in California law, for the crime to have occurred. If a person attempts to bribe a public official or, conversely if a public official requests a bribe and the other party refuses, the culpable party is still guilty of bribery and can be punished as if the ‘deal’ had actually gone through.
Each California county has the authority to set its own bail amounts. They do this via their bail schedule, which sets forth preset bail amounts for specific crimes. The bail schedule allows a person to get out of jail within a few hours, and by contacting your closest Bail Hotline, an experienced agent can post your bond for as little as 10% of the face amount.
Though these bail preset amounts usually vary between counties, they are strikingly similar when it comes to bribery. In Santa Clara, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties the crime of bribery involving councilmen, supervisors or other similar officials brings a $25,000 bail amount. Monterey County’s bail amount differs from these three, coming in at $20,000 dollars, and there are even a few types of bribery in this county for which bail may be as little as $10,000.
Penalties and Consequences
Bribery in instances that include marriages and appointments to certain lower offices are usually treated as misdemeanors – and thus only bring a maximum of one year in jail – but the greater majority of bribery crimes are considered felonies. In cases of felony bribery a person will face between two and four years in a state prison.
If a bribe didn’t change hands then a person will face a fine of two to ten thousand dollars. If the advantage or object of value actually did change hands, then the fine will be at least two thousand dollars and could go up to double the amount of the actual bribe. Public officials are also required to permanently relinquish their office.
Bribery is taken very seriously in California. The crime flies right in the face of the systems that are created to ensure fairness within society, and when people decide to violate these rules they are punished to the fullest extent of the law. There are some very legitimate defenses to a bribery charge, but usually only an experienced attorney can convince a judge or jury of these facts.