Federal bribery charges, in Georgia and beyond

Under federal law, it is a criminal offense to give, or offer to give, anything of value to a public official with the intent to influence any of his or her official acts - an offense that is more commonly known as bribery. A violation of this law can actually have quite severe consequences for the alleged offender, including up to 15 years in jail and/or a maximum fine of three times the amount of the bribe.

While this particular criminal offense may appear relatively straightforward upon first glance, it can actually be quite complex when applied to real world situations. For instance, not every gift or contribution to a federal official will constitute bribery. Indeed, in order for bribery to exist, some type of criminal or corrupt "intent" must first be shown.

Some federal courts have even found that gifts given to an official with some generalized hope of an ultimate benefit does not rise to the level of criminal intent needed to prove federal bribery charges. In fact, bribery typically requires some proof of "quid pro quo," which essentially means that a public official took money in return for the exercise of his or her official power. Stated another way, there typically needs to be some type of link between the "bribe" given to the public official and a specific official act for which it was given.

However, it is also important to note that both the person offering a bribe and the recipient can face potential conviction under the federal bribery statute. Thus, any federal public official that receives, accepts, demands or seeks a bribe can be criminally punished using this particular federal law.

Georgia's bribery law

One thing to keep in mind is that the federal bribery law typically only applies when federal officials are involved, not local or county officials - unless, or course, the local officials in question work for an agency that receives federal funding.

Interestingly, however, Georgia has its own bribery statute, which prohibits many of the same actions outlawed under the federal statute, except it expressly references state and local officials instead of federal.

Ultimately, it can be difficult to navigate the confusing federal and state laws that govern charges of criminal bribery. Not only are the penalties associated with these charges severe but other possible criminal allegations often arise in conjunction with accusations of bribery, such as racketeering charges. Thus, it is always best to consult with an experienced attorney who can help explain your rights and options if you are facing such charges.