If you have been charged with the criminal offense of bribery in Florida you are facing a number of serious penalties if convicted. Only an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney can review the specific facts and circumstances of your case and offer detailed advice; however, as an accused it may be helpful to have a better understanding of the crime of bribery in Clearwater.
To avoid the impression that influence is being bought, most public servants are not allowed to accept gifts from members of the public. Gifts that are allowed must be reported so that they are public information should anyone inquire. How does the law differentiate between a well-meaning gift and a bribe? To answer that question we have to start with the applicable statute. In Florida, the criminal offense of bribery is found in Florida Statute 838.015 which defines the crime as:
“corruptly to give, offer, or promise to any public servant, or, if a public servant, corruptly to request, solicit, accept, or agree to accept for himself or herself or another, any pecuniary or other benefit not authorized by law with an intent or purpose to influence the performance of any act or omission which the person believes to be, or the public servant represents as being, within the official discretion of a public servant, in violation of a public duty, or in performance of a public duty.”
The important elements of the statute are as follows:
- Corruptly – according to the statute, the word “corruptly” is defined as “acting knowingly and dishonestly for a wrongful purpose.” Therefore, if you gave a gift to a public official with the intention of expressing your gratitude for the official’s service, and nothing more, you would not have given that gift corruptly.
- Not authorized by law – as mentioned previously, the law attempts to prevent the appearance of impropriety by governing what officials may accept gifts and what types of gifts may be accepted. Of course, it is impossible for the law to contemplate every conceivable situation in which a public servant could be offered a gift; however, if you gave a public official a gift that was expressly authorized that may form the basis of a defense to the crime of bribery.
- Intent or purpose to influence – finally, your intentions matter. To be convicted of bribery the prosecution must prove that you intended to influence the performance of the public official’s duties by giving or offering the gift or service in question.
Bribery is charged as a second degree felony in Florida, meaning that you could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to 15 years if convicted. Given the severity of the potential sentence it is important to consult with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with the crime of bribery in Clearwater.