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Federal Crime of Bribery – 18 U.S.C. § 201

Bribery is generally described as an act of offering some type of compensation to influence the actions of another person.  Federal bribery cases under 18 U.S.C. § 201 are often connected to public officials, when a private citizen offers them something of value in an effort to influence how they execute their duties.

Bribery crimes have also been committed when someone makes an attempt to influence the behavior of a private citizen with fiduciary duties, such as an officer of a bank institution.

Federal Bribery Defense Lawyer - 18 U.S.C. § 201

A large number of bribery cases are filed as a conspiracy by a federal prosecutor. In a conspiracy case, the prosecutor is alleging there were two or more people who made an agreement to engage in criminal conduct. Federal bribery crimes are often more likely to result in conspiracy charges due to the fact they normally involve at least two people, the one offering the bribe and the other accepting it.

The primary agency that investigates 18 U.S.C. § 201 bribery cases of public official is the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

It should be noted that it's not uncommon for the DOJ and FBI to work with local law enforcement agencies, especially in a situation where there are allegations that a state or local public official are connected to a bribery scheme.

In some bribery cases, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could get involved in the criminal investigation if the case is connected to a financial institution they are responsible for maintaining oversight.

To give readers a better understanding of bribery charges, our federal criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

What Type of Behavior is Prohibited Under 18 U.S.C. § 201?

Bribery of a public official is described under 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1). It states that anyone could be guilty of bribing a public official if they directly or indirectly give, or make a promise to give, anything of value with the intent to corruptly influence them to perform, or omit, an act that would be in violation of their public duty.

Under this statute, a “public official” is described as any employee, officer, or an agent of the United States government who is acting in their official capacity. This also includes a juror in a federal criminal case.

The term “corrupt” in the context of bribery means the act was intentional for an unlawful purpose. The term “official capacity” means a decision or action on a cause or proceeding that could be brought before a public official in their official capacity.

Illegal gratuity to a public official is described under 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(A). It states anyone could be guilty of providing illegal gratuity to a public official if they directly or indirectly give, or offer anything of value to a public official acting in their official capacity.

Bribery or reward of a bank officer is described under 18 U.S.C. § 215(a)(1). It states anyone could be guilty of bribery of a bank officer if they give, or offers to give, anything of value to a bank officer that is connected with a business transaction with intent of influencing them.  

Under this statue, a “bank officer” is an employee, agent, director, or other related position within a financial institution. The related crime, 18 U.S. Code § 220 Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, prohibits accepting or paying kickbacks for referrals.

Federal Conspiracy – 18 U.S.C. § 371

Federal conspiracy is described under 18 U.S.C. § 371. It states that someone might be guilty of conspiracy if they agree with one or more other people to engage in criminal conduct and at least one of the people who were involved in the scheme takes one overt act in furtherance of it.

It should be noted that in order to be involved in a conspiracy, the person has to know about the illegal goals of the conspiracy, but it's not required that they know all the specific details of the bribery scheme, or all the other people who are also involved.

It should also be noted that anyone who is involved in a federal conspiracy is treated as someone who is acting on the behalf of all the other people involved in the conspiracy.

This means they can be held criminally liable for all the illegal actions that were taken by the other co-conspirators in the scheme as if they committed the illegal acts themselves.

In order to be charged with 18 U.S.C. § 371 conspiracy, the unlawful goals of the conspiracy don't need to be actually accomplished, if at least one action was taken in furtherance of the conspiracy by at least one of the co-conspirators.

18 U.S.C. 225 defines the crime of continuing financial crimes enterprise (CFCE). 18 U.S.C. 208 defines the crime of acts affecting a personal financial interest.

Penalties for 18 U.S.C. § 201 Bribery

If you are convicted of the white collar crime of bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, the penalties can be severe and include huge fines and significant time in a federal prison.

If convicted of bribery of a public official under 18 U.S.C. 201(b), the penalties include up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to three times the monetary amount of the something of value that you offered to the public official.

If convicted of illegal gratuity to a public official, the penalties include up to two years in a federal prison and criminal fines. If convicted of bribery or reward of a bank officer, the penalties will depend on the amount of the something of value that you offered them.

For example, if the amount was over $1,000, the penalties include up to 30 years in a federal prison, and a criminal fine up to $1 million or three times the value given, whichever amount is greater. If less than $1,000, the penalties include up to one year in prison and fines.

If convicted of a federal conspiracy, the penalties will depend on the underlying crime and the goal of the conspiracy. Federal bribery is typically a felony offense, which means a conviction can result in up to five years in prison and criminal fines.

It should be noted that penalties for conspiracy to commit a crime are in addition to the penalties for the crime itself.

Fighting 18 U.S.C. § 201 Federal Bribery Charges

If you are facing federal bribery charges under 18 U.S.C. § 201, you could be facing severe penalties and will need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges.

Federal criminal charges are much different than facing charges for a state-level crime. This means you need legal representation with the skills necessary to handle federal cases and who is familiar with the procedures in federal criminal court.

Early intervention into your case by our law firm can greatly increase your chances at a favorable outcome.  Our attorneys will help you throughout the criminal investigation and make crucial decisions on how to deal with the federal prosecutor, such as deciding whether to cooperate as a witness in the government's case.

We will review all the details in order to determine an appropriate strategy against the bribery case. There are a wide range of defenses we can use in an attempt to obtain the best possible outcome.

Lack of Evidence

We might be able to argue there is a lack of evidence to convict. Recall that the federal prosecutor has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, all the elements of the bribery case.

Perhaps we can show the prosecutor weaknesses in their evidence to raise reasonable doubt. If we can persuade the prosecutor they don't have convincing evidence against you, we might be able to negotiate for a lesser offense, or even a case dismissal.

Lack of Intent

In federal bribery cases, the prosecutor has to be able to prove you had the required criminal intent to commit the crime. In many cases, proving intent can be difficult for a prosecutor and we can exploit this by showing evidence and arguments that prove you didn't possess the criminal intent to commit federal bribery.

By using our knowledge of federal criminal law and procedures, we will explore all potential defenses to challenge the federal bribery charges.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a federal criminal defense law firm representing clients nationwide against all types of federal offenses. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office located in the San Fernando Valley at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us for a case evaluation at 877-781-1570.

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