Part of being a public official is listening to constituents and considering their perspectives when making decisions. However, there is a point where the public’s influence departs from accepted practices and becomes illegal activity or bribery. This crime carries severe penalties, so if you find yourself confronted with such allegations, you should work with a trained Fulton County bribery lawyer to exercise your rights and protect your future. Contact a fraud attorney right away to begin building your defense.
The purpose of government and other public entities is to serve and protect the community. When a public official makes decisions based on enriching their personal life or family, the public can no longer assume the individual is working for the greater good. To maintain the public’s trust, the law punishes bribery severely, as this conflict of interest may ultimately lead to the breakdown of societal systems.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 16-10-2 defines bribery as offering or accepting something of value in exchange for a desired outcome related to a person’s official duties. Unlawful persuasion of federal officials is also a crime under 18 United States Code § 201. Under either legal scheme, this offense involves an offer, something of value, and a public official. Additionally, the official’s acceptance of the gift is not necessary to charge the other party with engaging in bribery; the fact that they made an offer may suffice.
A public official includes elected or appointed individuals employed by the government, a political subdivision, or other governmental body. This definition applies equally to all government levels—federal, state, county, and municipal. In addition to the obvious elected officials (e.g., legislators, governors, mayors), the term public official also includes judges, courtroom staff, police, city council members, municipal workers, postal employees, and many other civil servants.
Understanding what constitutes something of value is harder to pinpoint. The law does not precisely identify the associated benefits, services, or consideration, but instead, O.C.G.A. 16-10-2(a)(2) outlines what does not support a bribery charge. Some of these include:
It is wise for those accused of bribery to retain a qualified Fulton County attorney with experience in this area. Their knowledge could make the difference in the strength of the defendant’s case and a favorable resolution through either a plea deal or trial verdict.
A robust defense strategy may focus on questioning the existence of a bribe. The defendant may argue that the interaction did not involve:
Seasoned bribery attorneys in Fulton County may help those charged evaluate which of these and other defenses best fit the circumstances and persuasively present them to prosecutors, judges, and juries to minimize any punishment.
Whether charged under federal or state law, defendants risk spending time in prison and paying fines. O.C.G.A. 16-10-2(b) sets the punishment for bribery at one to 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $5000, or both. A guilty verdict under federal law exposes the defendant to imprisonment of up to 15 years, a fine up to three times the bribe’s worth, and disqualification from holding future federal public office.
The penalties for offering or accepting a bribe can have far-reaching effects on your life, so it may be beneficial to entrust your case to an experienced Fulton County bribery lawyer. An experienced attorney could give your case the attention and care it needs to help you seek the best possible outcome. Call today.