Bribery is a crime in the State of Florida which occurs in two distinct scenarios. First, bribery occurs when someone attempts or succeeds in gifting, offering, or promising a benefit to a public servant that is not otherwise authorized by the laws of the state while intending or trying to have the public servant be influenced to act or fail to act in the performance of that public servant’s duties. Second, bribery can occur on the other side of this transaction, where the public servant knowingly seeks or agrees to engage in the bribery described above with someone else.
A public servant under either scenario is any officer or employee of any branch of government, whether already in their office or employed or whether the person is merely seeking office or employment in the government. This broad definition prevents bribery from occurring during the campaign process and also during the hiring process.
While bribery involves two distinct individuals, one of whom must be a public servant, bribery does not require any actual agreement between these individuals. Additionally, the agreement may be for the public servant to influence another public servant to act or fail to act. A bribery charge also does not require that the public servant have already started their duties for the public. Further, it does not matter whether or not the public servant had the legal authority to accomplish their end of the bargain. Finally, a bribery charge does not require the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the public servant would have even legitimately considered accepting a bribe.
Bribery is a serious concern in public governance for several reasons. First, the public’s trust in their government can be eroded upon evidence of corruption. Second, it can incentivize bad actors to seek an appointment or election to an office or obtain employment with the government. Third, inappropriate decisions or authorizations could be made, negatively impacting public funds, safety, or quality of life. Bribery at any level of government is a serious charge and can result in significant consequences for all involved. Investigations of bribery are often conducted over a long time to develop thorough evidence to support the charges and uncover further acts of bribery.
Florida Bribery Attorney
If you have been arrested for bribery in Florida and are seeking the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney, call The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. to discuss your case. Bribery is a serious charge and may result in steep criminal penalties. Get started on crafting a formidable defense today with The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A..
The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. accepts white collar crime cases in Spring Hill, Brooksville, North Weeki Wachee, Homosassa Springs, Floral City, Wildwood, Lake Panasoffkee, and the surrounding areas in Hernando, Citrus, or Sumter County. Call (352) 593-4115 to arrange an initial consultation today.
- Penalties For Bribery
- Statute of Limitations In Bribery Cases
- Defenses In Bribery Cases
- Additional Resources
Penalties For Bribery
It is a felony in the second degree to commit bribery. So, the maximum penalty the typical criminal defendant accused of bribery faces is fifteen years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, if the court finds the defendant to qualify as a habitual felony offender, the court may double the sentence to a maximum of thirty years imprisonment.
Statute of Limitations In Bribery Cases
Under Florida’s criminal code, the prosecutor only has three years from the date the alleged offense occurred to commence a criminal case for bribery against a defendant. After that time, the statute of limitations has run, and no criminal prosecution is allowed unless a specific exception applies.
Defenses In Bribery Cases
Florida law contains several limitations restricting possible defenses to a bribery charge. While these limit the range of possible defense to a bribery charge, there are other avenues under the statute that a criminal defendant can counter to prevent a successful conviction for bribery.
First, the defendant’s mental state is essential to any bribery charge, although the specific requirements are different whether the person being charged is a public servant or not. The government must prove that a private individual intentionally or purposefully worked to influence the public servant. For public servants, the mental state is lowered to “knowingly.” Regardless of the specific type of intent necessary to secure a conviction, both are a heavy burden for the state to prove, mainly since bribery is often conducted privately using coded language.
Another avenue to defend against these charges is to counter the assertion that the reason for the influence was to convey a benefit to a public servant versus merely attempting to legitimately persuade the public servant to act according to the normal and accepted lobbying process.
Florida Civil Action for False Claims – A whistleblower may bring a civil claim under the Florida False Claims Act through a longstanding process in the legal profession that is commonly called a qui tam action. A whistleblower may sue on behalf of the State of Florida to recover improperly expended public funds, including funds that could have been a part of a bribery scheme. In such a civil lawsuit, in certain situations, the whistleblower can receive a significant portion of proceeds recovered for bringing the action on behalf of the State of Florida. In this way, whistleblowers are incentivized to bring bribery to the public’s attention, discouraging bribery.
Florida Businessman Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Bribery Scheme – U.S. Department of Justice announced the three-year federal sentence for John Thomas Burnette of Tallahassee, who was charged in connection with a scheme to bribe former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
Brooksville Bribery Lawyer | Hernando County, FL
If you have been arrested for bribery, the best decision you can make is to contact an experienced Brooksville bribery lawyer. At The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A., founder attorney Ashley Aulls has practiced law since 1996 and will zealously represent you. He is prepared look out for your best interests during this difficult time.
The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. accepts bribery cases in Pasco County, Sumter County, Citrus County, and Hernando County. To schedule a free consultation, call (352) 593-4115 right now.