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Bribery Defense Attorney
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The legal system regards bribery as a serious matter. Society has a strong interest in deterring corruption, especially within government agencies and public institutions. In the simplest terms, bribery undermines fairness and quality because people pay influential officials to provide something they likely would not get otherwise. Alternatively, an official also breaks the law when asking for bribes to perform official services. Upon convicting someone of bribery, federal law insists on hefty fines and sometimes prison. A West Palm Beach bribery defense lawyer works on behalf of Florida criminal defendants to prevent or limit these negative outcomes.
Distinction between bribery and graft
Federal laws about bribery apply to both bribery and graft. Bribery, as described above, involves money or something else of value going to someone in a position of influence in exchange for a desired outcome. The bribe is either offered by the person who needs a favor or requested by the person with the power to grant the favor.
Graft has much in common with this corruption, but the equation of the transaction works a little differently. A public official engages in graft when exerting influence to direct public money in ways that yield a personal gain. This can take the form of a public contract with inflated prices for products and services going to a favored business. The public good is ignored for the purpose of enriching an outside party that will later reward the public official for approving the highly profitable deal.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Examples of bribery
As a form of white collar crime, bribery is a tactic used to motivate a response from a public official or financial professional.
The law recognizes that the offense can occur in many ways. A bribe could:
- encourage a public official to violate official duties
- alter an official’s testimony to a committee or court
- motivate an official to perform an official duty when it would normally be denied
- result in the appointment of someone to public office who would not normally be chosen
- win approval of a bank loan for an unqualified recipient
- cause a judge to impose an abnormally lenient sentence
- compensate a police officer for letting a suspect go free
When governmental and commercial spheres interact, businesses may arrange for bribes to get:
- preferential treatment from regulators
- lucrative public contracts
Public officials gain from these illegal deals in the form of kickbacks. The commercial entity that profited from the public official’s actions will share a portion of that money with the official. As an alternative to a monetary kickback, those engaging in bribery may reward an official with an all-expenses-paid vacation or real estate at below market price.
Illicit financial deals between government officials and contractors are not the only source of federal bribery charges. Individuals can get into trouble for fraud and bribery as the so-called college admissions scandal illustrated.
In 2020, a grand jury indicted a part-time resident of West Palm Beach who allegedly agreed to pay the head tennis coach at Georgetown University to arrange for the admission of his daughter. The coach allegedly accepted the money and designated the young woman as worthy of the tennis team despite not meeting the normal athletic criteria.
Federal bribery laws and penalties
Definitions and penalties for bribery are found within 18 U.S. Code Sections 201 and 215. The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI investigate allegations of bribery. These federal agencies typically coordinate their efforts with local law enforcement agencies who have been alerted to suspected wrongdoing by state or local officials. Bribery investigations of people at financial institutions may involve the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as well.
Federal sentencing guidelines outline penalties of:
- fines up to three times the amount of the bribe’s value
- up to 15 years in federal prison
Bribery defense strategies
The defense of any criminal case starts with looking at the legal definition of the crime and the evidence. A white collar crime defense attorney always asks if the evidence can prove the elements of the offense.
A conviction for bribery relies on demonstrating that the defendant offered an official something of value, or that defendant was an official who asked for and/or accepted something of value, to perform an official act.
A prosecuting attorney bears the burden of proving that the exchange happened for the purpose of a specific beneficial outcome and was not a coincidence. A West Palm Beach federal attorney can cast doubt on the nature of the exchange or argue that the evidence does not support the conclusion that a transaction took place at all.
As for the intent of an accused person, this can be difficult for the government to prove. A defendant may have done something without any expectation of corrupting an official process. Additionally, the connection between the official and the alleged source of a bribe may not be clear. A white collar crime lawyer should exploit any opportunity to cast doubt on the clarity of evidence concerning a financially beneficial exchange.
A local West Palm Beach example of a lack of clear evidence in a bribery case took place in 2021 when a judge ruled that authorities could not prove that the defendant had an agreement with the alleged recipients of bribes. The man, who ran a debt-collection company, was accused of bribing three Florida clerks of courts with campaign contributions and donations to their preferred charities. With the dismissal of the bribery charge, he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of improper donations.
Consult with a bribery lawyer right away
A major difference between a private attorney and a public defender is that a private lawyer is available to advice you prior to an arrest. In fact, seeking out legal help when you realize that investigators suspect you of a crime improves your chances of avoiding the harshest prosecution. A West Palm Beach bribery defense attorney at Joffe Law, P.A. can protect your rights during interactions with authorities. Should an arrest occur, we will direct our resources to defending your liberty and reputation. For confidential legal advice, call our office immediately.