A recent story broke about a former police officer pleading guilty to both bribery and drug trafficking charges in a case from last March. According to reports, Earnie Cox allegedly assisted during a raid by providing sensitive information. The raid resulted in the seizing of two firearms, $120,000, and fourteen pounds of marijuana.
Cox was fired after corruption allegations were reported to his police chief and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Most know that bribery is illegal, but the law behind the crime of bribery is complicated, and there are serious consequences to a bribery conviction.
What is the crime of bribery in Georgia?
The Georgia Code outlines the two ways that a person can commit the offense of bribery in Georgia in O.C.G.A. §16-10-2:
A person commits the offense of bribery when:
(1) He or she 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; or
(2) 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.
Georgia Courts hold that there are three elements that comprise the offense of bribery:
- The offer or gift
- The purpose to corruptly influence
- The official status of the offeree
Georgia Courts also have found that public officials include:
- Municipal Officers
- Municipal Council Members
- Members of General Counsel
- Postal Workers
- Police Officers
The statute outlines certain exceptions to what constitutes a “thing of value.” These exceptions 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.
What is the penalty for bribery in Georgia?
In order to be convicted of bribery, the prosecution must prove that the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by proving the existence of the three elements above: there was an offer or gift that was given with the intent to corruptly influence a public official. If convicted of bribery, a person will be guilty of a felony, and the penalty can include between one and twenty years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both.
There are Georgia Criminal Defenses that apply to the offense of bribery. If you or a loved one has been charged with committing the offense of bribery in Georgia, contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer today.