Penal Code § 165 PC is the California statute that makes bribery by or of members of county boards of supervisors and other local government officials a crime. A violation of this law is a felony offense punishable by up to 4 years in jail or prison.
The language of the statute reads that:
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.
Examples of illegal bribery
- giving $3,000 to a member of a company’s board of trustees for his/her support on a particular initiative.
- a Los Angeles city council member taking a bribe to vote “no” on a development project.
- a business owner giving free goods to a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors for his/her support in awarding contracts.
A person accused under this statute can challenge the allegation with a legal defense. Three common defenses are the defendant showing that he/she:
- was not a county supervisor or related official,
- did not act with corrupt intent, and/or
- was entrapped.
The crime is punishable by:
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a crime under Penal Code 165?
- 2. Can a defendant challenge a charge with a legal defense?
- 3. What are the penalties for violating PC 165?
- 4. Can a witness get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there related offenses?
1. What is a crime under Penal Code 165?
It is a criminal offense under this statute if the following is true:
- a person gave or offered to give to a supervisor, or alternatively, a supervisor took or offered to agree to take,
- something of value,
- with a corrupt intent, and
- the bribe was offered or taken so as to influence the supervisor’s action in an official matter.1
Members of boards of supervisors are not the only government officials covered by these laws. The statute also pertains to members of:
- common councils,
- county or city boards of trustees, and
- a public corporation’s board of trustees.2
For purposes of this bribery charge, a person acts with a “corrupt intent” when he or she acts to wrongfully gain a ﬁnancial or other advantage for:
- herself, or
- someone else.3
2. Can a defendant challenge a charge with a legal defense?
Our California defense attorneys help clients build effective legal defenses to bribery charges. A few successful defenses to these charges are the defendant showing that he/she:
- was not a county supervisor or related official.
- did not act with a corrupt intent.
- was entrapped.
2.1 No county supervisor or related official
PC 165 only pertains to specific officials (e.g., common council members, members of boards of supervisors, etc.). Therefore, it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she did not hold such a status or title at the time of the alleged offense.
2.2 No corrupt intent
Recall that a person is only guilty under these laws if he/she acted with corrupt intent. A defendant, then, can seek to establish his/her innocence by showing that he/she did not act with this purpose.
This is an effective defense if a person was charged after an undercover sting operation. It says that law enforcement lured the defendant into committing a crime. It is an acceptable defense provided that the accused shows he/she only committed the crime because of the entrapment.
3. What are the penalties for violating PC 165?
Bribery charges under this stature are brought as felony offenses.
- imprisonment in state prison or county jail for up to four years, and/or
- substantial fines.
A judge does have the authority to award a defendant with felony probation in lieu of prison time.
4. Can a witness get a conviction expunged?
A person guilty under these laws can only get a conviction expunged if he/she received probation (and successfully completed it).
Note that expungements are not available under California law for convictions that lead to the defendant serving a prison term.
5. Are there related offenses?
Three crimes related to the bribery by or of a county supervisor include:
- bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68,
- bribery by or of legislators – PC 85 and 86, and
- bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93.
5.1 Bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68
Note the difference in focus with these laws. While PC 165 is directed towards county supervisors and related officials, these laws center in on executive officers.
5.2 Bribery by or of legislators – PC 85 and 86
As with PC 165, an accused is only guilty under these laws if he or she acted with corrupt intent.
5.3 Bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93
Like PC 165, a violation of these laws leads to felony charges.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group.
- California Penal Code 165 PC.
- See same.
- See same. See also People v. Gliksman (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 343.