Penal Code 641.3 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of commercial bribery. This section makes it illegal for an employee to take a bribe from a person in exchange for using his/her employment position for the benefit of the other party. A violation of the statute can lead to felony charges and time in state prison.
PC 641.3 states that:
(a) Any employee who solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept money or any thing of value from a person other than his or her employer, other than in trust for the employer, corruptly and without the knowledge or consent of the employer, in return for using or agreeing to use his or her position for the benefit of that other person, and any person who offers or gives an employee money or any thing of value under those circumstances, is guilty of commercial bribery.
(b) This section does not apply where the amount of money or monetary worth of the thing of value is two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or less.
(c) Commercial bribery is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year if the amount of the bribe is one thousand dollars ($1,000) or less, or by imprisonment in the county jail, or in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years if the amount of the bribe exceeds one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(d) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Employee” means an officer, director, agent, trustee, partner, or employee.
(2) “Employer” means a corporation, association, organization, trust, partnership, or sole proprietorship.
(3) “Corruptly” means that the person specifically intends to injure or defraud (A) his or her employer, (B) the employer of the person to whom he or she offers, gives, or agrees to give the money or a thing of value, (C) the employer of the person from whom he or she requests, receives, or agrees to receive the money or a thing of value, or (D) a competitor of any such employer.
Examples of illegal acts
- an employee accepts a $100,000 payment from his employer’s business competitors to disclose certain business practices belonging to the company.
- a manufacturer gives season tickets to an employee of a company in return for awarding it a contract with the company.
- a corporate executive accepts $25,000 from a certain media outlet in exchange for informing it of questionable hiring policies of his/her employer.
An employee can challenge a commercial bribery charge with a legal defense. Effective defenses include the worker showing that he/she:
- did not act with corrupt intent,
- took something with a value less than $250, and/or
- acted with the consent of the employer.
If the bribe was $1,000 or less, then the offense is charged as a misdemeanor offense. The crime is punishable by custody in county jail for up to one year.
If the bribe exceeded $1,000, then a defendant receives a felony conviction. A felony offense is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. When is commercial bribery a crime?
- 2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 641.3 PC?
- 3. What are the penalties for violating California’s commercial bribery laws?
- 4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there related offenses?
1. When is commercial bribery a crime?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully prove that a person is guilty under the state’s commercial bribery statute:
- the defendant was an employee of a company who solicited or took something of more than $250 from someone other than his employer,
- the defendant did so with corrupt intent and without the knowledge or consent of his employer, and
- the employee took the thing of value in exchange for using his or her position to the benefit of the other person.1
For purposes of this statute, a “corrupt intent” means to purposely act to injure or defraud:
- the employee’s employer,
- the employer of the person offering the bribe, or
- a competitor of either employer.2
Note that this criminal law covers both parties to a bribe or kickbacks. This means it is a crime if:
- an employee accepts a bribe, and
- a person offers the employee a bribe.
2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 641.3 PC?
Employees facing bribery charges have the right to raise a legal defense on their behalf. Our criminal defense attorneys often defend against these charges by showing that:
- the accused did not act with a corrupt intent.
- the defendant took something of value under $250.
- the accused took something of value with the consent of his/her employer.
2.1 No corrupt intent
Recall that an accused is only guilty under PC 641.3 if he/she acted with a corrupt intent. This means it is always a defense for a defendant to show that he/she did not act with this purpose.
2.2 Value less than $250
This statute does not apply if someone took something (or offered something) with a value of less than $250.3 A defense, then, is for a defendant to show that he accepted something less than this value.
2.3 Consent of employer
Recall that an employee cannot be convicted under this statute unless the prosecutor shows that his/her employer did not consent to the taking of something of value. Therefore, a good defense is for an accused to show that he took something but did so with the consent of his/her company.
3. What are the penalties for violating California’s commercial bribery laws?
A violation of this statute can get charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount of the bribe.
If the amount was $1,000 or less, then a person will receive a misdemeanor conviction. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.4
If the bribe was greater than $1,000, then the defendant is charged with a felony. A felony conviction is punishable by custody in state prison for up to three years.5
As to felonies, a judge can award a defendant with felony (or formal) probation in lieu of prison time.
4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
A defendant that receives a misdemeanor commercial bribery charge can get an expungement provided that he/she successfully completes:
- jail time, or
- probation (whichever was awarded).
A person convicted of felony bribery can only get a conviction expunged if he/she received probation instead of a prison term. This is because California law prohibits expungements for crimes that result in custody in prison.
5. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to this statute. These are:
- bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68,
- bribery by or of legislators – PC 85 and 86, and
- bribery by or of a witness – PC 137 and 138.
5.1 Bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68
As with commercial bribery, a defendant is only guilty under these laws if he/she acts with corrupt intent.
5.2 Bribery by or of legislators – PC 85 and 86
Unlike violations of PC 641.3, violations of these laws are always felony offenses.
5.3 Bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93
Unlike the commercial bribery law, there is no knowledge element to these offenses. A prosecutor just has to show that:
- a bribe was offered or taken, and
- the accused acted with corrupt intent.
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 641.3a PC. See, e.g., People v. Riley (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 1016.
- California Penal Code 641.3d3 PC.
- California Penal Code 641.3b PC.
- California Penal Code 641.3c PC.
- See same.