While bribery seems straightforward as a crime, the importance of intent can add nuance to bribery and bribery charges. The sentencing guidelines are extremely high because of the public official designation. The penalties for federal bribery include jail time and expensive fines. With so much at stake, the distinctions of a bribe in DC federal bribery charges are vital because they can make a difference in terms of sentencing and the penalties that someone will face. If you face federal bribery charges in DC, get in touch with an experienced bribery attorney and know that you are in good hands.
A lawful gift is a gift to someone that is completely unrelated to their official act. For example, a person has a lot of respect for President Obama and sends a gift they made to the President. There is no expectation on the part of the sender for a special favor from the President in return for the gift. On the local level, if a person believes a city official is doing a good job, they may decide to give them a gift with no expectation of anything in return. That is a lawful gift.
There are statutes in place about whether a public official can accept what is otherwise a lawful gift. Often there are monetary limits that are extremely small like $20 or $50 as far as the value of something. But nonetheless, that could be a lawful gift.
One of the distinctions of a bribe in DC federal bribery charges, is that a gift turns into a bribe when there is an expectation of some action or inaction to be taken by that official. In theory, that is a clear distinction. It involves the intent of the giver and the intent of the acceptor or the public official. If the public official believes the item is a bribe and they accept it with that belief, it becomes bribery. There is a clear, legal distinction but in practice, it is extremely difficult. That is why public officials do not accept gifts because it looks bad and lends itself to speculation, assumption, and investigation.
Bribery involves the intent. To be convicted of bribery, a public official must confess or put something in writing, make a recorded confession, or be overheard by a witness that the gift is, in fact, a bribe and they are going to do something and in exchange for that. It is based on circumstantial evidence.
A public official does not want to be in a position where they accept the gift and then vote on something that happens to be in line with what the gift giver would have wanted. Even though there was no expectation of anything in return, it looks bad and the public official is in the position of trying to prove their innocence. In the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty but, in the court of public opinion, it does not work that way.
While the distinctions of a bribe in DC federal bribery charges are concrete, the scenarios are essentially the same for bribery and illegal gratuity. They often involve government procurement where a federal employee who is responsible for awarding contracts is charged with receiving gifts or bribes. There may be allegations about the contracts, hearings, and things of that nature. Sometimes an elected official is alleged to have taken bribes to influence the decisions the official is going to make.
It is difficult to disprove an allegation that an official knew a gift was coming or there was a conversation that took place. In a bribery situation, the government must establish the intent that is quid pro quo. They must establish the two-way street.
However, with an illegal gratuity, the government must establish that the public official had an expectation or knowledge that they were going to receive a gratuity or a gift. They are not required to prove the two-way street in an illegal gratuity situation.
A recent example involved the former governor of Virginia being prosecuted for bribery, among other things. The defense team presented a robust defense to establish that the gratuities, the influence, was not related to official duties. They attempted to prove that all transactions were based on prior friendships or business contacts completely outside of the official duties. If the evidence supports that claim, that can be a successful defense. It can be a legitimate defense depending upon the facts of the case.
By consulting a qualified lawyer, you are ensuring that you are working with someone who can advocate for you. It is important that your lawyer has a firm grasp on the distinctions of a bribe in DC federal bribery charges, so they can better defend you. An adept attorney who has a solid understanding of local bribery policies can use their knowledge to build your case, and can attempt to mitigate potential penalties you may face.