Bribery Law in California

You've heard the story:  a dark parking lot, a package changes hands.and suddenly a councilman casts a crucial vote or a judge fixes a case.  Whether this is influence peddling or something else (like a misunderstanding) it can end up with a bribery charge.

That's serious stuff.  In California, bribery of or by a public official is often a felony.   Conviction carries harsh penalties, including possible imprisonment.  It can destroy your reputation.  It can ruin your career.

But there are legal defenses to bribery. Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers can help.1 We're former prosecutors and police investigators and we know how to defend these complex cases.

We represent public officials accused of accepting or soliciting bribes, as well as citizens accused of bribing or attempting to bribe public officials.

This article provides an introduction to bribery law in California.  If you have questions after reading it, give us a call at Shouse Law Group for a consultation.

This article covers:

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

1. Bribery law in California
2. The legal definition of bribery in California law
3. Elements of the crime of bribery
4. Legal defenses to a bribery charge
5. Penalties for a bribery conviction

You might also be interested in our related articles on:  Bribery (executive and ministerial officers), Bribery (legislative officers), Bribery (supervisors and public corporations), Bribery (judicial officers and jurors), Bribery (witnesses), and Commercial Bribery.

1. Bribery law in California

Bribery is an effort to corruptly influence, by way of money or gift, a public official in the course of that official's work.

The law of bribery in California is vast and spreads through numerous laws.2 Distinct Penal Code sections deal with

Idea behind bribery laws

Perhaps one reason why so many statutes deal with bribery is because society considers it an especially repugnant crime.  Lawmakers and courts don't like it when the public is swindled out of honest government services.

This principle was expressed by the California Supreme Court all the way back in 1883, when a police officer took $15.00 in exchange for not arresting people for gambling:

The law, it is well remarked, abhors the least tendency to corruption; and at common law, attempts to bribe, though unsuccessful, were held indictable..The offense consists.in poisoning and corrupting the fountain of justice."8
2. The legal definition of bribery in California law

Bribe is defined broadly in California law.  This is the legal definition in Penal Code Section 7:

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.9

Bribery law targets both sides of the transaction.it applies (1) to a person who offers to bribe an official, and (2) to an official who seeks or takes a bribe.

Except in relation to certain penalties, it does not matter if you actually made or received the bribe.  It's the thinking about it, and acting on the thought, that counts.

There's no need for money explicitly to change hands.  A bribe can be inferred from the circumstances of a transaction.by implications of what people said and did and also what they didn't say or didn't do.

Let's look at an example of bribery:

Example :  Janet runs a company that provides dead-body sea burial and disposal for a number of communities on California's north coast.  She's an aggressive businesswoman and is expanding her territory south.  She befriends the coroner of a county on the central coast.  During a meeting with the coroner at a seaside tavern, Janet slides an envelope of bills across the table to "sweeten the deal" if the coroner grants her company an exclusive contract to dispose of bodies of indigent people.

Janet likely has committed bribery.  She sought to influence the conduct of an executive officer, the coroner, by way of payoff.10
3. Elements of the crime of bribery

The are common elements to the crime of bribery.  Generally, it is a crime when

    1. a person gives (or offers to give) a public officer, or
    2. a public officer asks, receives, or agrees to receive:
(a) something of value
(b) with a corrupt intent
(c) to influence an official matter.

As with all criminal cases, the prosecutor has the burden of proving the crime...and proving it beyond a reasonable doubt.  So let's look a bit more closely at what all this means.

Public officer

Public officers covered by bribery law in California include:

  • district attorneys11
  • police chiefs12
  • police officers13
  • deputy city coroners14
  • California state senators
  • city councilmen/women
  • board of supervisors members
  • judges
  • jurors
  • witnesses

Apparent Authority

It doesn't matter if an official has technical authority in a given case.  Under California bribery law, what is important is whether the official acted within the general scope of his or her authority.

Let's look at an example:

Example :  Deputy Sheriff Mills was asked by his boss to arrest Jameson, a fugitive from justice from another state.  Deputy Mills finds Jameson in a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood.  As he's making the arrest, Deputy Mills whispers to Jameson that he can make it "all go away" for $5,000.  Jameson has cash lying around and he forks it over.  But it turns out that a special kind of California arrest warrant had to be issued in the case and that did not happen.  Deputy Mills doesn't want to go down for bribery, so he claims he lacked authority to make the arrest and therefore could not receive a bribe in connection with it.

This argument will not work for Deputy Mills.  He can still be convicted of bribery.  He thought he was on firm ground in making the arrest and no doubt Jameson thought the same thing.  The important thing was that Deputy Mills was acting with apparent authority and ability.15

No agreement needed

There is no need for both sides to agree to the bribe.  Someone can be convicted of bribery even though the person he or she tried to bribe never agreed to the plan.

One California case involved an attorney who attempted to bribe a witness not to appear in a case involving stolen property.  The witness was cooperating with law enforcement and only pretended to go along with the bribe.  The attorney was convicted anyway.16

Value

Value is broadly defined.  The point is not the inherent worth of the money or gift but rather its importance in facilitating corruption.17

Corrupt intent

Bribery is a specific intent crime.  Under California bribery law, a defendant cannot be convicted unless he or she acted with "corrupt" intent.in other words.a bad or wrongful design.

But how does the prosecution show what's in someone's mind?

It turns out the prosecutor can use a wide array of evidence to present its case, including direct and circumstantial evidence.  This can include tape recordings, videotapes and witness testimony.18

At the end of the day, it's up to the judge and jury to decide what really happened in a given situation.  Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers know how to keep harmful evidence out of court and make sure your side gets told.

Official matter

An "official matter" can involve a vote, decision or opinion.   A councilwoman could bribe a land developer over her vote on a potential zoning ordinance.19 A court traffic clerk could bribe a citation holder over his recalling a traffic ticket.20

California bribery law does not require an exact quid pro quo.  The bribe can be in exchange for general favors as opposed to a specific favor.

Here are two examples:

Example :  Defendant is an official in the food service division of a California jail.  He accepts cash payments and a partial car lease payment from a food service salesman with the intent that the salesman will get favorable contracts for providing food items to the jail.
The jail official is guilty of bribery.  It does not matter if the cash payments are in exchange for a particular contract, such as a coffee or a lunchmeat contract.  It is still bribery if the payments are instead designed to influence a more generalized course of conduct.21
Example :  Defendant is an attorney in Southern California.  Over the course of several years, the attorney provides judges and their family members with cars, health club memberships, a cruise, a bed and even a ghostwriter for a novel.  In exchange, the attorney gets favorable treatment on his cases.he gets to win more rulings and win more money for his clients.
The attorney is guilty of bribery.  He intended to influence how judges handled his cases.  It does not matter whether he gave specific items in relation to specific rulings.22

Extortion Distinguished

Bribery shares similar ground with another California crime, that of Penal Code 518 Extortion.  But they are separate and distinct crimes.  Both crimes involve getting someone else to do something.but the difference is in what is used as leverage to make that happen.

In the case of bribery, the leverage is money.  In the case of extortion, it's fear.

So if a film executive offers a large "donation" to a city official in exchange for a positive vote on a filming rights deal, we are dealing with bribery.  But if that film executive threatens to expose the official's extramarital affair if he doesn't vote in favor of the deal, then we are dealing with extortion.

4. Legal defenses to a bribery charge

Bribery is a specific intent crime.  There can be no conviction without corrupt intent.

This means if you are accused of bribery and you didn't mean wrongfully to influence any kind of official matter.that is, you had no "corrupt" intent.then you have a good defense.

This can come up in different ways.  Perhaps there was a misunderstanding.  Maybe it was a case of entrapment or of being drunk.  Maybe it all comes down to a split-second panic response that you regret.

It's often difficult to mount a successful defense in bribery cases, and that's why it is all the more important to have a California criminal defense attorney you can trust in your corner.

Misunderstanding

Lots of times bribery cases come down to which side of the story the jury believes.  Just because the prosecutor presents events in one way does not mean that's the only way they can be interpreted.

Let's take one of our earlier examples and modify a bit:

Example :  Defendant is an official in the food service division of a California jail.  He accepts cash payments and a partial car lease payment from a food service salesman.  Defendant and the salesman are friends.  Defendant is in dire financial straits and views the money as a loan from a friend that he will repay.  Even if the salesman also happened to receive favorable contracts, they were not related to the loan, at least in the official's mind.
If the jury believes the official, he will not be guilty of bribery, as he had no corrupt intent in relation to the payments.23

Entrapment

As we discuss in our related article on the California rules of entrapment, this is a legal defense used when the criminal idea did not originate with the defendant.  Instead it was planted in defendant's mind by cops.24

Entrapment is a legal defense to bribery.

Intoxication

Voluntary intoxication is also a possible legal defense to a bribery charge in California.  To mount this defense you need to show you were so intoxicated that you could not formulate the necessary intent to commit bribery.

You have to show not just that you were drunk.but also that the intoxication actually impaired your ability to form intent.25

Example :  Josh, who owns a restaurant, is at a fundraiser cocktail reception for a local councilman. Josh consumes five drinks and is very drunk. He offers the councilman to cater an event for free if the councilman calls the city zoning commission and asks them to grant a variance that Josh is seeking to build a second story on his house.
On these facts, Josh might be guilty of offering to bribe a public official. But his state of intoxication when he allegedly made the bribe could serve as a legal defense.

It was a mistake

Let's say you are drinking at a bar and get in a fight.  An officer comes to arrest you for assault and.well.you just panic.  Before you really know what you are saying, you take a gold chain from around your neck and give it to the officer, saying "please take this and let me go!"

This was a one-time, spur-of-the-moment situation.it did not involve planning.you never did anything like this before.  You did not sit around thinking up devious ways to unlawfully influence people in power.  You were just scared.

Whether or not such a defense actually works in a given case, it is important that you get all dynamics and motivations of the situation out to the jury.26

5. Penalties for a bribery conviction

Worse comes to worse, if you are convicted of bribery in California, what will happen to you?  What is the penalty for bribery?

Penalties include:

Except in certain situations (such as bribing a ministerial officer in an amount less than $400), bribery is a felony.  You can be sentenced to state prison for between two and four years.27

You might also have to pay a restitution fine in the following amount:

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

Finally, if you are a public official you will have to forfeit your office and you will not be able to get it back.

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help.
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If you or loved one is charged with bribery 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 Attorneys have local offices throughout the state, including Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County and San Francisco.

2Related statutes deal with extortion, solicitation of another to bribe and intimidation of a witness.  Bribery of voters, financial institutions officials and sporting event participants and officials are covered by still other sections of the law.  Commercial bribery is dealt with in our related article Commercial Bribery.  Related federal crimes are addressed by the Hobbs Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

3California Penal Code Sections 67, 67.5 and 68.  ("67. Every person who gives or offers any bribe to any executive officer in this state, with intent to influence him in respect to any act, decision, vote, opinion, or other proceeding as such officer, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, and is disqualified from holding any office in this state. 67.5. (a) Every person who gives or offers as a bribe to any ministerial officer, employee, or appointee of the State of California, county or city therein, or political subdivision thereof, any thing the theft of which would be petty theft is guilty of a misdemeanor.  (b) If the theft of the thing given or offered would be grand theft the offense is a felony. 68. (a) Every executive or ministerial officer, employee, or appointee of the State of California, a county or city therein, or a political subdivision thereof, who asks, receives, or agrees to receive, any bribe, upon any agreement or understanding that his or her vote, opinion, or action upon any matter then pending, or that may be brought before him or her in his or her official capacity, shall be influenced thereby, 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, and, in addition thereto, forfeits his or her office, employment, or appointment, and is forever disqualified from holding any office, employment, or appointment, in this state.   (b) In imposing a restitution fine pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the defendant's ability to pay the fine.")

4California Penal Code Sections 85, 86 and 88.   ("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. 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. 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.")

5California Penal Code Section 165.  ("Every person who gives or offers a bribe to any member of any common council, board of supervisors, or board of trustees of any county, city and county, city, or public corporation, with intent to corruptly influence such member in his action on any matter or subject pending before, or which is afterward to be considered by, the body of which he is a member, and every member of any of the bodies mentioned in this section who receives, or offers or agrees to receive any bribe upon any understanding that his official vote, opinion, judgment, or action shall be influenced thereby, or shall be given in any particular manner or upon any particular side of any question or matter, upon which he may be required to act in his official capacity, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, and upon conviction thereof shall, in addition to said punishment, forfeit his office, and forever be disfranchised and disqualified from holding any public office or trust.")

6California Penal Code Sections 92, 93 and 94.  ("92. "Every person who gives or offers to give a bribe to any judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, or to any person who may be authorized by law to hear or determine any question or controversy, with intent to influence his vote, opinion, or decision upon any matter or question which is or may be brought before him for decision, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years. 93. (a) Every judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, and every person authorized by law to hear or determine any question or controversy, who asks, receives, or agrees to receive, any bribe, upon any agreement or understanding that his or her vote, opinion, or decision upon any matters or question which is or may be brought before him or her for decision, shall be influenced thereby, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and, in cases where 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 where 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.  (b) In imposing a restitution fine under this section, the court shall consider the defendant's ability to pay the fine. 94. Every judicial officer who asks or receives any emolument, gratuity, or reward, or any promise thereof, except such as may be authorized by law, for doing any official act, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The lawful compensation of a temporary judge shall be prescribed by Judicial Council rule. Every judicial officer who shall ask or receive the whole or any part of the fees allowed by law to any stenographer or reporter appointed by him or her, or any other person, to record the proceedings of any court or investigation held by him or her, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall forfeit his or her office. Any stenographer or reporter, appointed by any judicial officer in this state, who shall pay, or offer to pay, the whole or any part of the fees allowed him or her by law, for his or her appointment or retention in office, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be forever disqualified from holding any similar office in the courts of this state.")

7California Penal Code Sections 137(a) and 138.  ("(a) Every person who gives or offers, or promises to give, to any witness, person about to be called as a witness, or person about to give material information pertaining to a crime to a law enforcement official, any bribe, upon any understanding or agreement that the testimony of such witness or information given by such person shall be thereby influenced is guilty of a felony..138.  (a) Every person who gives or offers or promises to give to any witness or person about to be called as a witness, any bribe upon any understanding or agreement that the person shall not attend upon any trial or other judicial proceeding, or every person who attempts by means of any offer of a bribe to dissuade any person from attending upon any trial or other judicial proceeding, is guilty of a felony.  (b) Every person who is a witness, or is about to be called as such, who receives, or offers to receive, any bribe, upon any understanding that his or her testimony shall be influenced thereby, or that he or she will absent himself or herself from the trial or proceeding upon which his or her testimony is required, is guilty of a felony.")

8People v. Markham (1883) 64 C. 157, 161 (quoting an Alabama case, italics added).

9California Penal Code 7(6).  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."

10 Loosely based on People v. Strohl (1976) 57 C.A.3d 347.

11Singh v. Superior Court (1919) 44 Cal.App. 64.

12People v. Finkelstein (1950) 98 C.A.2d 545.

13See People v. Markham, supra, 64 C. 157 [police officer considered executive officer]; People v. Mathews (1954) 124 C.A.2d 67 [police officer considered executive officer]; but see People v. Britton (1962) 205 C.A.2d 561 [police officer considered ministerial officer]; People v. Longo (1953) 119 C.A.2d 416 [police officer considered ministerial officer]  As indicated by these cases, it is sometimes unclear whether an officer such as a police officer is considered an executive or ministerial officer.  The consequence of the distinction is in punishment - bribes of ministerial officers in amounts that constitute petty theft are misdemeanors instead of felonies.   See Witkin and Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (3rd) VIII �34  ("The term 'executive officers' in both P.C. 67 and 68 has been broadly interpreted to refer to any officer charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law and assigning subordinates to tasks.")

14People v. Strohl, supra, 57 C.A.3d 347.

15Loosely based on People v. Lips (1922) 59 Cal.App. 381.  ("[Deputy sheriff] had been instructed by his superior to locate and apprehend [fugitive], and without doubt he believed that he was acting officially as a deputy sheriff in all that pertained to his activities under the directions of that superior.  His action in agreeing to release [fugitive] was corrupt in the last degree, and we find no difficulty under the law in determining that his illicit conduct related to a matter 'pending before him' in his official capacity."  Id at 391.)  See also Witkin, supra, VIII �54 ("Frequently, defendants have attempted to distort this principle into the defense that the officer did not have authority to perform the particular act requested; in brief, that one cannot be bribed to do an act that he or she cannot legally do.  This defense has been uniformly rejected.  If the act sought to be influenced is within the general scope of the officer's duties, he or she has the apparent ability to perform, and that is enough.")

16See People v. Pic'l (1982) 31 Cal.3d 731 ("Gliksman initially observed that the courts in California have almost uniformly rejected the contention that a statutory requirement of a bribe 'upon any agreement or understanding' refers to a formation of a bilateral agreement . Rather, the language means that bribery must be proposed by the person offering to give or to receive the bribe, as the case may be, with the criminal intent that a corrupt act will be committed by the one accepting the bribe; if the offender has that intent, the fact that the other party does not subjectively intend to perform is irrelevant."  Id at 738, referring to People v. Gliksman (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 343.)  See also People v. Diedrich (1982) 31 Cal.3d 268.  See also Witkin, supra VIII �48 ("the offer is bribery, irrespective of whether the offer is accepted or refused.")

17Levenson and Ricciardulli, California Criminal Law (2008-2009 Ed.) �13:3.  ("The value of the bribe in and of itself is rarely the topic of discussion.  Rather, the evil to be deterred is the procurement of undue influence.")

18People v. Meacham (1965) 256 C.A.2d 735 ("The specific intent to commit the crime of bribery is an essential element of the charge, but the trier of fact may resort to circumstantial evidence to determine its existence, and circumstantial evidence may also be utilized to determine whether the intent originated with the defendant or was implanted in his mind by police officers."  Id at 744)

19People v. Diedrich (1982) 31 Cal.3d 268.

20People v. Diamond (1988) 201 Cal.App.3d 1305 [dealing with public employee provisions]

21See People v. Gaio, (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 919 ("The evidence was sufficient if it established that [jail official] received [salesman's] payments, and [salesman] made them, with the intent . that [jail official] be influenced in any one or more instances, types or courses of official action."  Id at 931)

22U.S. v. Frega (9th Cir. 1999) 179 F.3d 793 [attorney convicted of federal mail fraud and RICO violations upon showing of underlying predicate act of state bribery]  ("Linkage between a payment and a specific official decision is not required under California bribery law..a bribe intended to influence a case or decision not yet on a judge's docket, or intended to influence the assigning of cases, or intended to influence, generally, a judge's future actions with respect to matters that may come before him, falls within the statute's prohibitions.") Certain federal statutes, on the other hand, may require linkage.

23See People v. Gaio, supra, 81 Cal.App.4th 919  (But note that fact finder in case apparently did not buy these facts -- "[Official] was the principal witness in his own defense.  He testified that as of 1994 he had been in financial straits, his wages having been garnished to pay income tax arrears stemming from his withdrawal of retirement funds for a failed restaurant venture.  Unable to borrow commercially, he sought to do same from . [salesman], a friend..He claimed to have signed and given [salesman] a document in the nature of a promissory note, but it was not produced."  Id at 926)  See also U.S. v Frega, supra, 179 F.3d 793 [gifts are not necessarily bribes]  ("We also do not see any problem with the court's instructions on [attorney's] theory that if his payments were gifts, no bribery occurred; although not in the precise words preferred by [attorney], the court instructed that:  'Even though giving a judge something of value may be inappropriate or a violation of the ethical rules. . . such an act is not done corruptly so as to constitute a bribery offense unless [it] is intended at the time it is given to affect a specific action the judge officially will take in a case before him, or may take in a case that may be brought before him.  A gift or favor bestowed on a judge solely out of friendship, to promote good will, or for motive wholly unrelated to influence over official action does not violate the bribery statutes.'")

24People v. Meacham (1967) 256 C.A.2d 735 [bribe to councilman relating to topless dancing establishment]  ("The defense of entrapment is available where the crime perpetrated was not initially contemplated by the defendant, but was in fact planned and instigated by police officers, or those acting under their direction, and the defendant was, by persuasion or fraud, lured into its commission."  Id at 744.)  The Meacham case also involved a potential coercion defense, which was rejected in part because of the "atmosphere of friendliness" surrounding the transactions.

25See same [intoxication defense acknowledged but unsuccessful]

26Levenson & Ricciardulli, California Criminal Law, supra, �13:23.  ("The 'I Was Only Kidding' defense is probably the easiest defense to establish because it is available no matter what the evidence shows.  The most likely scenario for this defense is a citizen's impulsive attempt to convince a police officer not to arrest him or her to issue a ticket.  Unfortunately, the surrounding circumstances of such cases frequently defeat the defense..To the extent that an overzealous prosecutor charges an offer to give or to receive a bribe without some analysis of the circumstances of the transaction supporting the defendant's corrupt intent, the 'I was only kidding' defense may succeed.")  See also People v. Britton, supra, 205 C.A.2d 561.

27Bribery of a ministerial officer constituting petty theft as opposed to grand theft is a misdemeanor.  Also, certain transactions involving gratuities and rewards are misdemeanors.

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