Bribery is a complex crime in which something of value is offered and accepted, in exchange for a favor from an employee, a public official, a government official, or a commercial entity, either national or foreign. Bribes often take the form of money or gifts in return for a more favorable treatment, for instance, in order to be awarded a large government contract. However, bribes can also be favors, services, privileges, various goods, and property.
What sets a bribe apart is that it is given with the intent to alter or influence the actions of others. Bribery and public and political corruption, therefore, go hand in hand. There is no need for a written agreement to be in place in order for a bribery crime to be committed. However, the prosecutor does have to demonstrate that corrupt intent was present in order for the case to hold. Usually, bribery charges are brought both against the individual offering the bribe and the individual or entity accepting the bribe.
Bribery is particularly common in the sporting world, where teams or individual players deliberately lose a game in return for a bribe. Similarly, bookmakers in sporting events often give and accept bribes in order to have a certain score fixed. Alternatively, sporting officials and referees may be bribed in order to favor a certain team. In all cases, if convicted, harsh punishments that include prison time and fines can be imposed.
Bribery may also found in the corporate arena. For instance, employees at rival companies may be bribed in a recruitment effort. Unfortunately, these types of actions are becoming increasingly common with the growing globalization of the world of business. As a result, most states, including Ohio, are now looking at ways to revise their laws in order to include foreign bribery.
Lastly, bribery commonly happens in the political arena. Public officials are often bribed to allow certain contracts to pass or be denied, or even to rig elections. This is a particularly heinous crime, as public officials are supposed to be ethical and represent the public they serve.
Bribes do not have to have caused harm to the public, or even a single individual, in order to be classed as a criminal act. All bribes, regardless of their purpose, regardless of their effectiveness, and regardless of their overall impact, are classed as criminal, both in terms of offering and accepting. However, those who refused a bribe cannot be charged, so long as they did come forward with the information.
Laws and Penalties
Ohio has two laws covering bribes. Firstly, there is the ORC 2921.02, which involves public officials. Here, the crime is classed as a felony of the third degree. It carries with it a sentence of between one and five years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000. The second law is the ORC 3599.01v1, which does not involve public officials. This is classed as a felony of the fourth degree. Currently, most cases of international bribery come under this particular law. It carries with a prison sentence of between six and 18 moths, as well as fines of up to $5,000.
Besides criminal sentencing, other penalties are also imposed or experienced as a result of a bribe conviction. Someone who is a public official, for instance, is likely to be forced out of office. Most of those who accept or offer bribes will lose their work. Furthermore, they will have a mark against them, meaning that they will no longer be able to serve in appointed or elected positions within the government.
It is, in most cases, not a defense to state that the official receiving the bribe did not have the necessary power to actually act out the request of the defendant. Instead, most defense teams will cite absence of intent to commit a crime, insufficient evidence, proving incapacity, insanity, or intoxication, proving factual innocence, proving the absence of force, threat, or fear for inducing consent, and proving that the accuser already owned the property. It is very rare, however, for a bribery defense to be successful for the defendant and it is therefore often recommended to seek a plea deal. Seeking the help of an experienced attorney, therefore, is vital.
Statute of Limitations
ORC 2901.13 sets the statute of limitations for any type of felony to at least six years.
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