When Is Bribery a White Collar Crime?
Bribery can rise to the level of a white-collar crime if it involves a public official.
The law makes it illegal for a public official to enrich himself or herself by using their office to grant favors in exchange for money or other items of value. Someone who holds public office is in a position of power, whether they serve on a small town’s city council or the highest public office in government.
What Is Bribery?
Bribery can rise to the level of a white-collar crime if it involves a public official. If a person attempts to influence someone in public office by offering them money or something of value, this is considered bribery.
It’s also possible for a public official to be charged with bribery if they ask for or demand money or something of value in exchange for taking a certain action or voting in a particular manner.
Under Texas law, a public official can be a public servant, such as someone elected to a public office or a party official within a political party.
People sometimes believe that bribery can only happen when the money or item of value changes hands. This is incorrect. In fact, the crime occurs the second someone offers or seeks money or a valuable item in connection with an individual’s public office.
It also doesn’t matter if the public official didn’t actually have the authority to carry out whatever action they promised. Under Texas law, it’s also irrelevant if the public official actually followed through on what they offered or promised to do. All that matters is that they made the deal or promise with the intent to do so.
Bribery Is a Serious Crime
Under Texas law, bribery is a second-degree felony. A public official convicted of bribery can expect to face serious consequences, including the loss of their position. In some cases, even a mere accusation of bribery is enough to get a public official suspended or removed from office.
In Texas, a second-degree felony conviction carries a minimum prison sentence of two years and a maximum sentence of 20 years. An individual convicted of a second-degree felony in Texas can also be fined up to $10,000.
In many cases, a bribery charge is just one of several related charges a person can face. For example, a former Texas judge convicted of bribery in 2019 was also charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of federal program bribery, three counts of Travel Act bribery, and one count of obstruction of justice.
Moreover, because public officials are typically subject to enhanced scrutiny, it’s common for stories of public corruption at all levels of government to make the news. This kind of attention can spread quickly via social media, which can create a permanent social record that haunts a person for years. Someone convicted of bribery might struggle to get a job because there’s a perception that they’re untrustworthy.
Defenses to Bribery
Unfortunately, people are sometimes wrongfully accused of bribery in Texas. This accusation can seriously damage a person’s reputation and jeopardize not only their public office but any private sector job they might hold.
Anyone who has been accused of bribery should consider speaking with a Dallas white collar crime defense lawyer. It’s possible to successfully defend against a bribery charge. However, white-collar crime cases tend to be quite complicated. This is why it’s important to seek out a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
Possible defenses to bribery include:
- Lack of intent – Intent is an important element in criminal cases. If the public official or the person purporting to offer the bribe had no intent to actually bribe or accept a bribe, the prosecution doesn’t meet the elements of bribery.
- Mental capacity – In some cases, it may be possible to show that the individual was too impaired to understand what they were doing. For example, if a public official was extremely intoxicated at a public fundraiser at the time the bribe is supposed to have taken place, it might be more difficult to prove that the official had the requisite intent to accept a bribe.
- Entrapment – Entrapment is a notoriously difficult defense to prove. However, it’s always important to consider the possibility of entrapment. A person can be successful arguing they were entrapped if they can show that law enforcement pressured them into committing a crime they wouldn’t ordinarily commit.
Contact a Dallas White Collar Crime Defense Lawyer About Your Case
If you have been charged with offering a bribe or accepting a bribe, it’s important to talk to a Dallas white collar crime defense lawyer about your case. Even the accusation of bribery can do serious damage to your reputation. This is why it’s best to fight back against a bribery charge as soon as possible. Contact the criminal defense team at The Law Office of Broden & Mickelsen in Dallas today.
Broden & Mickelsen
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