California Penal Code 85 & 86 pc
Bribery by or of Legislators & Elected Officials

Let's say you own a nightclub that provides lucrative "adult" entertainment.  Neighborhood groups are upset with your idea of a good time and local government is taking their side.  The city council might zone your cash cow right out of existence.

What can you do?   Well, one thing you cannot do--at least not legally--is bribe the councilmen to vote against a zoning ordinance.  This would be a felony offense.  You could end up in jail or prison.

But there are two sides to every story and the whole bribery area is a complicated one.  Let's say one of those angry neighbors arranged to frame you, or law enforcement entrapped you into offering a bribe.

The bottom line in a case like this or in any other bribery case is that you need a good lawyer in your corner.  Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers can help.1 We're former prosecutors and police officers and we know how to fight these complex cases.

This article covers PC 85 and PC 86, two of California's laws dealing with bribery of legislators.  You might also be interested in our related articles on

Below we will discuss

1. Definition of bribe
2. Penal Code 85 pc - bribery of legislators
3. Penal Code 86 pc - bribery by legislators
4. Defenses to a bribery charge
5. Penalties for a bribery conviction

(Click on a title to proceed directly to that section)

1. Definition of bribe

Bribe is broadly defined in California law.  It happens when a legislator...an elected lawmaker like a California state senator, member of the California State Assembly or local city councilman...trades his/her vote for money or something else of value.7

Bribery goes both ways...a person can be convicted for offering a bribe to a legislator and a legislator can be convicted for asking for a bribe.

2. Penal Code 85 pc - bribery of legislators

California Penal Code Section 85 pc deals with bribes of legislators.  PC 85 makes it a felony for:

  1. any person to give or offer to give a legislator
  2. something of value
  3. with a corrupt intent
  4. to influence the legislator's vote in an official matter8

The following people are covered by Penal Code 85 pc:

  1. state legislators
  2. members of city legislative bodies
  3. members of county legislative bodies
  4. members of school district legislative bodies

Menace and deceit also prohibited

Penal Code 85 pc also prohibits someone from using corrupt means like menace and deceit to coerce a legislator to give or withhold his vote on an issue.  Using threats or force to compel a public officer to perform an official act could also be prosecuted under Penal Code 518, California extortion law.9

3. Penal Code 86 pc - bribery by legislators

California Penal Code Section 86 pc deals with bribes by legislators.  PC 86 makes it a felony for:

  1. a legislator to ask, receive, or agree to receive
  2. something of value
  3. with a corrupt intent
  4. to influence the legislator's vote in an official matter10

The following people are covered by Penal Code 86 pc:

  • state legislators
  • members of city legislative bodies
  • members of county legislative bodies
  • members of school district legislative bodies

Vote coercion also prohibited

The language of PC 86 further prohibits a legislator from conditioning her vote on that of another legislator.11

4. Defenses to a bribery charge

As we've discussed, there are two sides to every story and there are defenses to bribery charges.  Defenses include:

For more details on defenses to bribery charges, please see our related article California bribery laws.

5. Penalties for a bribery conviction

Bribery convictions carry stiff penalties, including:

  • imprisonment
  • fines
  • forfeiture of office
  • disqualification from future office

If you are convicted of bribery, you can be sent to state prison for between two and four years.

If you are convicted of violating PC 86, you might also have to pay a restitution fine in the following amount:

    • if the bribe was not received, between $2,000 and $10,000, or
    • if the bribe was received,
      • at least the bribe amount received or $2,000, whichever is greater, OR
      • any larger amount of not more than twice the bribe amount received or $10,000, whichever is greater.

Further, you will have to forfeit your office and you will not be able to get it back.12

Call us for help...

If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 85 & 86 pc bribery of elected officials and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

To learn about bribery law in Nevada, go to our informational article bribery law in Nevada.

References:

1Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers have local offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.

2See California Penal Code sections 67 and 68, dealing with bribery of executive officers and public employees.

3See California Penal Code sections 92 and 93 dealing with bribery of judges, judicial officers and jurors.

4See California Penal Code section 165, dealing with bribery of members of county boards of supervisors and public corporations.

5See California Penal Code sections 137 and 138, dealing with bribery of witnesses regarding testimony or trial attendance.

6See California Penal Code section 641.3, dealing with commercial bribery.

7California Penal Code Section 7(6) provides that:  "The word 'bribe' signifies anything of value or advantage, present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking to give any, asked, given, or accepted, with a corrupt intent to influence, unlawfully, the person to whom it is given, in his or her action, vote, or opinion, in any public or official capacity."  Penal Code Section 7(3) provides that:  "The word 'corruptly' imports a wrongful design to acquire or cause some pecuniary or other advantage to the person guilty of the act or omission referred to, or to some other person."

8California Penal Code Section 85  ("Every person who gives or offers to give a bribe to any Member of the Legislature, any member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district, or to another person for the member, or attempts by menace, deceit, suppression of truth, or any corrupt means, to influence a member in giving or withholding his or her vote, or in not attending the house or any committee of which he or she is a member, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.")

9California Penal Code 518 -- Definition. ("Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.")

10California Penal Code Section 86  ("Every Member of either house of the Legislature, or any member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district, who asks, receives, or agrees to receive, any bribe, upon any understanding that his or her official vote, opinion, judgment, or action shall be influenced thereby, or shall give, in any particular manner, or upon any particular side of any question or matter upon which he or she may be required to act in his or her official capacity, or gives, or offers or promises to give, any official vote in consideration that another Member of the Legislature, or another member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district shall give this vote either upon the same or another question, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and, in cases in which no bribe has been actually received, by a restitution fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) or not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or, in cases in which a bribe was actually received, by a restitution fine of at least the actual amount of the bribe received or two thousand dollars ($2,000), whichever is greater, or any larger amount of not more than double the amount of any bribe received or ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is greater.  In imposing a fine under this section, the court shall consider the defendant's ability to pay the fine.")

12Sections 85 and 86 were amended in 2006 to apply to local government officials as well as state legislators.  The amendment was prompted by threats among local officials in Riverside County over conservation action.  See S.B. 1308 Assembly Committee Analysis (6/26/06):  "California Penal Code Sections 85 and 86 are the state's bribery and extortion laws.  State law prohibits any time of 'quid pro quo' on legislation - it is illegal for one legislator to vote a certain way on a bill in exchange for the promise of a vote from another legislator....According to background information provided by the author, "[this bill] would expand the state's bribery and extortion laws to include county supervisors, city council members, and all other elected local officials so that they are held to the same standards as state legislators."  See also S.B. 1308 Senate Floor Analysis (8/27/06):  "SB 1308 is in response to recent comments threatening Riverside County cities if they did not approve the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.  In a February 5th Desert Sun article, Supervisor Wilson threatened that he 'would not be there' to support local property annexations if the Cities of Indio or Desert Hot Springs did not approve the plan.  Supervisor Wilson went on to brag:  'If that is being heavy handed, I stand guilty as charged.' "On February 9th, on KNEWS radio's Marshall and Stone Show, Wilson confirmed the threat saying he told officials from Indio:  'But I can guarantee you that if you guys kill our ability to build roads and freeways [Wilson's 'spin' and not accurate] in this valley... throughout this valley, I will reconsider my position and I will probably engage my fellow supervisors to fight any future annexation.' "And the threats have been heard loud and clear by city officials.  In a February 17th Desert Sun article, Indio Mayor Gene Gilbert details the desperate situation Indio is in, saying 'It is development suicide if we adopt it.  If we don't, we are going to get blackballed in some way.'"

12California Penal Code Sections 88  ("Every Member of the Legislature, and every member of a legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district convicted of any crime defined in this title, in addition to the punishment prescribed, forfeits his or her office and is forever disqualified from holding any office in this state or a political subdivision thereof.")

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