Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers are all former prosecutors; as such, we have the benefit of inside knowledge when it comes bribery cases because we used to prosecute the very same cases that we now defend. Having handled bribery cases for decades, first as prosecutors and now as criminal defense attorneys, our lawyers know that the crime of bribery, a second-degree felony, is outlined in subsection 838.015 of the Florida State Statutes:
(1) "Bribery" means 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.
(2) Prosecution under this section shall not require any allegation or proof that the public servant ultimately sought to be unlawfully influenced was qualified to act in the desired way, that the public servant had assumed office, that the matter was properly pending before him or her or might by law properly be brought before him or her, that the public servant possessed jurisdiction over the matter, or that his or her official action was necessary to achieve the person's purpose.
(3) Any person who commits bribery commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
It is important to note that the first line of s. 838.015(1) includes the word “corruptly,” ostensibly implying that simply doing any of the things described in the subsection in a non-corrupt fashion is permissible by law. Indeed, the burden of proof is on the prosecution; in our justice system, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Another important thing to note in reviewing the statute is that s. 838.015(2) maintains that you can be prosecuted for bribery without the state having to prove a variety of circumstances, including that the public servant receiving the “gift” had jurisdiction over the matter at hand, that the public servant’s official action was necessary to achieve the person’s purpose, etc.
Because of the specifications in the statute, the bar is set fairly low for the prosecution in a bribery case to be given the go-ahead. For example, let’s say you are having a conversation with a friend, a city councilman, about the lackluster town playground. After the conversation, you hand your friend a gift and leave his house. A week later, it is revealed that the councilman has drawn-up plans for a playground renovation. Local authorities are tipped-off by your neighbor and you are charged with bribery. Seems like a pretty clear case of bribery, right? Well, what if you were speaking to your friend about the playground because you had just seen a television report on it? And what if the gift that you gave your friend was a birthday present, and you were at your friend’s house for his birthday party? You see, there are a plethora of circumstances under which what might appear to be bribery was simply innocent conversation and gift giving. It is essential, in defending these types of cases, to demonstrate a lack of corruption. Because we are a partnership of former prosecutors, we know how to defend these types of cases; we know what strategies work in achieving a conviction, and therefore we know what strategies to employ in an effort to have the charges dropped.
If you’ve been arrested for or charged with the crime of bribery in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, contact us to learn how we can help you. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363).