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Differences between Illegal Gratuity and Bribery in DC 

Is bribery illegal in DC? Bribery is a crime that can have severe penalties. Illegal gratuity, which is just as serious of a crime, has penalties that are slightly more lenient on an individual. The difference between illegal gratuity and bribery in DC can make a large difference in the kind of sentences and penalties one would face if convicted of either crime. Understanding the distinction between the two crimes, and the resultant penalties are vital when building a defense. If you face federal bribery charges, contact an experienced bribery attorney who understands that distinction and can work hard to build your case and defend you from these charges.

How Illegal Gratuity Differs from Bribery

Under the statute, an illegal gratuity is closely related and involved with bribery. Bribery is about offering, promising, and giving something of value to a public official or that public official agreeing to accept that the thing of value in exchange for doing or failing to do an official action as part of their duties.


The main difference between illegal gratuity and bribery in DC is the intent. Bribery requires a quid pro quo. That is where someone gives or promises to give something of value in exchange for an official to do or fail to do something related to their official duties. With bribery and illegal gratuity cases, the intent must be illegal. In other words, the intent must be to corruptly influence somebody to do something that they would not do or to be corruptly influenced by someone to take the action upon receipt of the thing of value.

Illegal Gratuity

An illegal gratuity is when someone gives something of value to a public official because that public official does or fails to do some act. An example of an illegal gratuity is when the county commissioner votes a certain way that a person happens to agree with. The person decides to give the public official something of value purely because of the official act they took.

This can be illegal because it creates a climate where the officials take that into consideration and an expectation of receiving something of value based on their votes or actions. The law was put in place so public officials cannot participate in illegal gratuity.

Common Scenarios of Bribery and Illegal Gratuity

Another difference between illegal gratuity and bribery in DC is the ways in which they are both alleged. A common scenario where bribery is alleged is when the government has evidence that something of value is promised or given to a public official and the public official does or does not do something in exchange. A bribery case often does not have the smoking gun such as an email that lays out the plan. Instead, the evidence of bribery is circumstantial. The government examines communications and bank account transactions. These are the most important kinds of evidence the government generally uses in white collar crimes.

The common scenario where bribery is alleged is where a government official has a connection to an individual and takes an action or decides not to take an action that benefits the individual. The government focuses on that activity and if they can establish the connection that something of value was given or promised in exchange for something of value to the individual, they have a good case against the individual charged with bribery.

Upper-Level Bribery

Often, bribery is not at the upper levels because of members of the United States Congress, officials in the executive branch, the President, and the Vice-President, the Secretary of State have a high level of responsibility that affects millions of people across the world. Typically, those are people who are not in a situation to accept a bribe. It is more common to have a local government employee such as a health department inspector who might be threatening to shut down a restaurant so the restaurant owner gives them $100 to receive a passing grade on their inspection.

Bribery involves someone who has the direct ability to affect another person in a negative way. The official is bribed to look the other way. That is the most common type of bribery in the District. There are other bribery schemes that take place particularly in a city like DC because it is the seat of the federal government. Bribery often occurs in federal contract situations because there are federal contracts in different areas of the government worth billions of dollars. A decision to grant or withhold a contract can have a major impact on a company.

Penalties For a Federal Bribery and Illegal Gratuity

The Federal Corrupt Practices Act has anti-bribery provisions. Under that act, any anti-bribery violation can result in a fine of up to $2,000,000 if it is a corporation or business entity. For an individual of a company, the fine is up to $100,000 and a maximum of five years in prison. A person can receive massive fines and there is the potential of several years in prison.

If a person gives or receives an illegal gratuity conviction, they face a prison term of up to two years. A bribery conviction can result in up to 15 years of imprisonment as well as huge fines under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. A conviction for giving or receiving an illegal gratuity is up to a two-year prison sentence. Bribery is considered to be much worse and the penalties reflect that.

With illegal gratuity, the penalties tend to be less serious. They involve smaller amounts of money and that tends to drive the sentences down. Bribery cases sometimes result in a guilty plea to an illegal gratuity charge where the sentences can run lower. However, a skilled federal bribery attorney can help mitigate any potential penalties you may face, whether it is a bribery charge or an illegal gratuity charge, you face.

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