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Bribery of a Public Official

Prosecutions for Bribery of a Public Official can result from either a direct payment, promise of payment or anything of value given to influence the official for the benefit of the defendant or defendant's intended beneficiary. Recently, there have been several high-profile prosecutions of persons who sought to receive favor with a public official in Jacksonville, Florida.

The two most common offenses are detailed in the following sections from 18 U.S.C. § 201:

1. Bribery

  • a. 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1): offering a bribe to a public official
  • b. 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2): acceptance of a bribe by a public official; AND

2. Gratuities

  • a. § 201(c)(1)(A): offering a gratuity to a public official
  • b. § 201(c)(1)(B): acceptance of a gratuity by a public official.

The key distinction between these crimes relates to the connection between the money or thing of value and the official act. If the money was given in advance, essentially to purchase or ensure and official act, it is bribery. The payment can go to anyone or anything, including campaign contributions.

If the money is given after that act, as a "thank you" but not in exchange, or to "curry favor," then it is a gratuity. This payment must insure the personal benefit of the public official and cannot include a campaign contribution.

The importance of this distinction is seen in the potential penalties for the violations.

A 201(b) "bribe" conviction is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, while a § 201(c) "gratuity" conviction permits only a maximum 2-year sentence.

However, not every charge of bribery results in a conviction! The laws regarding gifts to public officials are full of loopholes, and those charged with bribery need experienced, dedicated, and creative lawyers on their side. If you have been charged with a federal bribery charge nationwide, call us. Our lawyers are admitted to the Florida and Georgia Bars, have criminal defense offices in Jacksonville, Florida, and Brunswick, Georgia, and are available as co-counsel across the United States.

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