Have You Been Charged with Bribery in Georgia?
Most people know that bribery is a crime, but they are unaware of the severe consequences that coincide with a bribery conviction. The reasoning behind bribery being a crime is that it creates a conflict of interest for the public official. If you or a loved one has been charged with bribery, the time to act is now. Do not wait to seek out an experienced Georgia Bribery Attorney because your future is at stake. The Law Offices of Lawson and Berry have over 50 combined years of criminal defense experience. Call us now for a free case evaluation.
What is Considered Bribery in Georgia?
According to Georgia case law, the elements of bribery are (1) the offer or gift (2) the purpose to corruptly influence and (3) the official status of the offeree. Slaughter v. State, 99 Ga. App. 239, (1959). Some people believe bribery and the influencing of legislative action crime to be the same, but actually, they are in fact, separate offenses. One thing Georgia law has tried to clarify about bribery is that citizens of Georgia have every right to influence their public officers, but they do not have the right to attempt to buy an official act of a public officer. State v. Agan, 259 Ga. 541, (1989).
Under O.C.G.A. §16-10-2 bribery can occur in two ways. The first way is when a person gives or offers to give to any person acting for or on behalf of the state or any political subdivision thereof, or of any agency of either, any benefit, reward, or consideration to which he or she is not entitled with the purpose of influencing him or her in the performance of any act related to the functions of his or her office or employment.
The second way occurs when a public official, elected or appointed, or an employee of this state or any agency, authority, or entity of the state, or any county or municipality or any agency, authority, or entity thereof, directly or indirectly solicits, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive a thing of value by inducing the reasonable belief that the giving of the thing will influence his or her performance or failure to perform any official action.
Who is a Public Official?
In addition to the obvious public officials such as legislators, Georgia case law has found that municipal officers, postal workers, municipal council members, members of the General Counsel of cities, judges, and police officers are also considered public officials.
What is a Thing of Value?
While there is no set definition as to what a thing of value is, O.C.G.A. §16-10-2 lays out items that are not considered things of value. With regard to the second option, a thing of value shall not include:
- Food or drink consumed at an event or meal;
- Legitimate salary, benefits, commissions, fees, or expenses associated with a recipient's nonpublic business, employment, trade, or profession;
- An award, plaque, certificate, memento, or similar item given in recognition of the recipient's civic, charitable, political, professional or public service;
- Actual and reasonable expenses for food, beverages, travel, lodging, and registration for a meeting which are provided to permit participation or speaking at the meeting;
- Any gift with a value less than $100
- Promotional items generally distributed to the general public or to public officers;
- A gift from a member of the public officer's immediate family; or
- Food, beverage, or expenses afford public officers, members of their immediate families, or others that are associated with normal and customary business or social functions or activities.
Georgia Case Law on Bribery
In the case of Felder v. State, Felder was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of bribery. The evidence presented showed that Felder was a detention officer at the Newton County Detention Center. An inmate, R.H. was considered escaping from the jail and approached Felder and ask him for a handcuff key. Felder and R.H. engaged in negotiations until they agreed that R.H. would pay Felder $100 for the key. Their agreement was discovered, and the Court found Felder guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of bribery. 286 Ga. App. 271, (2007).
What Has to Be Proven to Be Convicted of Bribery
To be convicted of bribery in Georgia, the State must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves showing that there was an offer or gift, given with the intent to corruptly influence, and the person must be a public official. If one of these is missing, then the crime is not bribery.
Penalty for Bribery In Georgia
A person convicted of bribery will be guilty of a felony. They will face between one and twenty years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both.
Defenses to a Bribery Charge in Georgia
The bribe was not offered in related to the official functions of the officer: If the bribery is for an action outside of the official duties of the officer, then the offense is not bribery. Upton v. State, 166 Ga. App. 541, (1983). A person cannot be bribed to do something entirely outside of his official duties, and it is considered a crime.
It is not considered a thing of value: If the gift or bribe falls under one of the categories that is not considered a thing of value under the statute, then the offense is not bribery.
The gift was not made with an intent to corruptly influence: While this defense may be difficult to prove, it would be highly beneficial. Bribery requires that the offer or gift is made with the purpose of influencing the public official so if there is no evidence to support that, then the crime of bribery has not been committed.
There was no offer or gift: Without an offer or a gift, bribery has not occurred. Georgia citizens have the power to influence their public officials, but it is illegal when they use an offer or gift.
What are Not Defenses
It was just an offer; not a gift: The Georgia Code states that even an offer made for the purpose of correctly influencing will be enough for a bribery conviction.
Bribery is a severe crime in Georgia and comes with great consequences. If you have been charged with bribery, the time to act is now. The Law Offices of Lawson and Berry have over 50 years of criminal defense experience and are here to help you now. Contact us for a free case evaluation.