Bribery of a Public Servant - Florida Statute 838.015

bribery

Bribery of a public servant is where one person attempts to give something of value not authorized by law to the public servant in exchange for some act or omission by the public servant.

Examples of Bribery of a Public Servant:

  • A land developer giving a councilman some money for him to vote favorably on the approval of the new housing development.
  • A person running for a public official position offering to “scratch” his constituents backs if they “scratch” his campaign funds.
  • A person who is arrested gives a police officer money in exchange for his freedom.
  • A building inspector asking for money to have the poor quality work “overlooked.”
  • A company offers to pay a government officer a percentage of the company’s government contract that is approved by the government officer.
  • A lawyer offering to pay the judge’s restaurant bill.
  • A police officer telling a person that the problem can go away with the payment of a “fine.”

Bribery can go both ways; A person can contact the public servant or a public servant can “suggest” a bribe to a person. Maybe the individual is told a special “fee” or “fine” is being added on. The individual who has to deal with the public servant might not want to pay this special fine or fee, but goes along with it for fear of the public servant doing something back.

Sometimes there can be a misunderstanding between the parties. Maybe the defendant was not trying to bribe the public official by giving the official’s son a job at the defendant’s business, but hired the son because he was a good candidate. There could have also been a language barrier, a misunderstanding of what was being talked about, or there was joking by either party. Bribery is knowingly and willfully committed, not accidentally or mistakenly committed.

How to Distinguish Between the 6 different Ways to Commit Bribery

The statute specifically prohibits 6 different situations of bribery. (1) an individual soliciting a public official do something, (2) a public official soliciting a bribe from a person, (3) an individual trying to influence a public official with a gift, (4) a public official being influenced by a gift, (5) an individual soliciting a public official to influence someone, or (6) a public official asking for money to influence someone or for previously influencing someone.

An Individual Soliciting a Public Official to Do Something

An example of this is a general contractor asking an inspector to overlook poor work.

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The person who was bribed was a public official;

(2) The defendant gave, offered, or promised to the public official something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the public official or a person the public official cared about; and

(4) The gift, offer, or promise was made for the purpose of corruptly influencing the public official in the performance of some act or omission either:

  1. The defendant believed was in the discretion of the public official, in performance of their duty, or in violation of law; or
  2. As the public official represented as being in their discretion, performance of their duty, or in violation of law.
A Public Official Soliciting a Bribe From a Person

For example, a judge saying, “Why don’t you take care of my restaurant bill at lunch?” to the attorney who has a case with the judge.

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The defendant was a public official;

(2) The defendant requested, solicited, accepted, or agreed to accept from the briber something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the defendant or a person defendant cared about; and

(4) The request, solicitation, acceptance, agreement to accept was made with intent of corruptly being influenced in the performance of some act or omission either:

  1. The person making the bribe believed the action was within the defendant’s official discretion, performance of duty, or against the law; or
  2. The defendant represented to the briber that the action was within their official discretion, the performance of their duty, or against the law.
An Individual Trying to Influence a Public Official with a Gift

For example, a lawyer telling a waiter that he will pay the judge’s restaurant bill.

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The person who was bribed was a public official;

(2) The defendant gave, offered, or promised to the public official something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the public official or a person the public official cared about; and

(4) The gift, offer, or promise was knowingly and dishonestly for a wrongful purpose made for past, present, or future performance or non-performance either:

  1. The defendant believed was in the discretion of the public official, in performance of their duty, or in violation of law; or
  2. As the public official represented as being in their discretion, performance of their duty, or in violation of law.
A Public Official Asking for a “Gift” or Accepting One

For example, a senator saying to a businessman, “If I didn’t have to worry about my campaign finances, I could focus more on meeting your needs.”

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The defendant was a public official;

(2) The defendant requested, solicited, accepted, or agreed to accept from the briber something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the defendant or a person defendant cared about; and

(4) The gift, offer, or promise was knowingly and dishonestly for a wrongful purpose made for past, present, or future performance or non-performance by the defendant either:

  1. The person giving the “gift” believed the action was within the defendant’s official discretion, performance of duty, or against the law; or
  2. The defendant represented to the “gift” giver that the action was within their official discretion, the performance of their duty, or against the law.
An Individual Soliciting a Public Official to Influence Someone

For example, the target of a criminal investigation offering money to the President to influence the Attorney General to stop the investigation would be committing bribery.

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The person who was bribed was a public official;

(2) The defendant gave, offered, or promised to the public official something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the public official or a person the public official cared about; and

(4) The gift, offer, or promise was corruptly made for the past, present or future exertion of any influence by the public official upon a third-party regarding any act or omission either:

  1. The defendant believed was in the discretion of the public official, in performance of their duty, or in violation of law; or
  2. As the public official represented as being in their discretion, performance of their duty, or in violation of law.
A Public Official Asking for Money to Influence Someone or for Previously Influencing Someone

For example, the chief building inspector telling the general contractor that he can “assign” the troubling building inspector who tends to find too much poor workmanship more substantive work that will keep him busy elsewhere.

To be convicted of this crime, the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The person who was bribed was a public official;

(2) The defendant gave, offered, or promised to the public official something;

(3) That something had value, benefit, or advantage to the public official or a person the public official cared about;

(4) The gift, offer, or promise was corruptly made for the past, present or future exertion of any influence by the public official upon a third-party regarding any act or omission either:

  1. The person giving the “gift” believed the action was within the defendant’s official discretion, performance of duty, or against the law; or
  2. The defendant represented to the “gift” giver that the action was within their official discretion, the performance of their duty, or against the law.
Punishment for Bribery

Bribery is a second-degree felony, which is punishable up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It is ranked level 7 out of 10 under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.

Contact The Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.

Bribery cases can be defended. If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with this crime, call our law offices, our West Palm Beach Bribery Lawyers can help you. We can schedule to meet you for a free consultation. It is important that we hear your side of the story. We will take that information and create a defense strategy. We will find out what evidence the prosecutor has and take depositions of any police officers or witnesses involved. From this information, we will advise you of your legal options on how to proceed with the case. We can take your case all the way to trial or negotiate a plea deal. Whichever path you chose, we will be working hard to get you the best results. Call today so we can start helping you.

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