Public officials, due to the nature of their positions, receive certain protections under the law. Therefore, when it is alleged that an individual has inappropriately influenced a public official, the law views this as a serious crime.
Under federal law, bribery of a public official is the act of giving, offering, or promising something of value to a public official, or a person who has been selected to be a public official, either directly or indirectly with the intent to influence the official’s behavior. Public officials include those persons who are officers or employees acting for or on behalf of the United States or any of its branches of government, as well as Members of Congress, Delegates, and Resident Commissioners. Under the law, the act of giving or offering something of value must be done “corruptly” to be considered a crime.
Bribery may also occur when a person tries to induce a public official to do something, or fail to do something, that is part of his or her duty as a public official, or to influence a public official to commit or allow acts of fraud. Additionally, persons serving as public officials may be charged with bribery if they have corruptly sought or accepted something of value in return for being influenced in their jobs, whether by being induced to perform an act in violation of their official duties or being otherwise influenced in their official capacity.
The penalties for a person convicted of the aforementioned forms of bribery include the possibility of up to two years in prison, as well as fines. These penalties can change an individual’s life and significantly affect his or her future. Thus, since bribery is a complex crime, a person who is being investigated for, or who has been charged with bribery, may wish to seek prompt legal counsel to protect his or her rights.
Source: Cornell University Law School, “18 U.S. Code Sec. 201 – Bribery of public officials and witnesses,” accessed Feb. 26, 2016