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What is involved in a bribery charge?

Bribery is a term that most people associate with politicians and others in government. For example, giving or receiving money or a gift in return for a government contract or some other lucrative deal is an example of bribery. However, it can involve anything of value, including a vote on legislation. Both the person offering the bribe and the one receiving it can face bribery charges.

Such transactions are rarely in writing. Usually there is a verbal agreement. Prosecutors don't have to produce a written agreement to charge someone with bribery. Sometimes law enforcement will wiretap people's phones to catch a conversation regarding the deal or perhaps catch people on camera paying money.

Prosecutors must show that there was an intent to get something in return for the bribe and that there was a causal connection between the money or gift and the action or reward. It has to be more than a coincidence.

Government employees and elected officials aren't the only ones who can be charged with bribery. It can occur in virtually any sphere of influence. It doesn't necessarily have to result in public harm. For example, bribery happens in sports, where the stakes of winning and losing are high. People have been known to pay athletes and referees to intentionally throw a game or match.

As noted, there are elements that have to be proven in order to convict someone of bribery. The penalties can be serious, including prison and hefty fines. Therefore, anyone accused of bribery should seek experienced legal guidance in order to protect their rights and present their case.

Source: FindLaw, "Bribery," accessed Feb. 24, 2017

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