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Difference Between Lawful Gifts and Bribes 

An important aspect of understanding what the difference between lawful gifts and bribes in Maryland bribery cases is knowing what corruptly means. Corruptly means with an unlawful intent. Corruptly in this scenario is a dishonest practice. To corruptly do something or to engage in corruption is to perform one’s duties or fail to perform such duties, not because of any honest intent on the public official’s part but rather, the person influenced by something outside of their true official duties and are acting dishonestly. To learn more about the difference, or if you have questions regarding bribery cases, contact a skilled attorney today.

Difference Between a Lawful Gift and Bribe

Giving a gift to a public official is always a dicey proposition because one has to worry about the potential of being investigated for an illegal gratuity. A bribe is a quid pro quo situation where an individual gives a gift, something of value, to a public official with the intent that it influences the public official’s actions. The public official does not have to accept that for the individual to be prosecuted for a bribe. Bribery includes the attempt to do so.


A bribe is money or a favor given or promised to influence the actions of a public official. The public official acts or fails to act in some way that benefits the giver of the bribe. An illegal gratuity is rewarding a public official by giving something of value because of some act the public official did or some decision they made. Even though the public official did not agree in any form to act or not act based on being given the gift, in that situation, it is the intent of the giver that one can read between the lines. They are trying to influence future actions and that is unlawful.

Lawful Gift

A lawful gift is giving someone who is a public official something of monetary value that has nothing to do with the fact that they are a public official. The person is not trying to obtain a reward from prior actions and decisions. The person is not trying to influence future actions or decisions. Basically, the public official is someone the person knows or cares about and wanted to give them a gift.

Giving a gift to a public official can be troublesome because of the intent of the giver in that situation. When it is unclear or there is a hint of a corrupt intent, an investigation can ensue. In theory, there is a clear distinction because of the intent of the giver. However, in practice, it can get murky. It is risky to give something of value to a person in a position of authority, in a position to make some decision or take some action in their official capacity as a public official.

Example Difference Between Unlawful Gift and Bribe

Using the example of the person whose mother is the mayor of their hometown, if the person wants to give their mother a gift for her birthday, they can do so without fear that the gift is somehow unlawful because of the familial relationship and the fact that it is the mayor’s birthday. There can be a problem when someone meets the mayor of their hometown just once and the mayor is involved in important decisions that can affect the person’s business.

If the person decides to give the mayor a $500 gift certificate to a nice hotel, that can appear suspicious. The reason for the gift is going to be looked at closely because the person gave $500 to the mayor they do not know well. That is where the practical distinction comes into play. If you are confused about the difference between unlawful gifts and bribes in Maryland bribery cases, contact an experienced lawyer today.

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