Penal Code 85 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to bribe a legislator or to use corrupt means to influence a legislator. A legislator includes state legislators and those of a city or county board. A violation of this law is charged as a felony offense.
The language of PC 85 states that, “every person who gives or offers to give a bribe to any [legislator]…or attempts by menace, deceit, suppression of truth, or any corrupt means, to influence a [legislator]…is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.“
Note that a legislator or elected official receiving or requesting a bring is punished under Penal Code 86 PC.
Examples of illegal acts
- paying a legislator $10,000 for a “yes” vote on a particular matter.
- blackmailing a legislator to secure his/her favor on a position.
- funding a legislator’s vacation in trade for his/her support on a piece of legislation.
Accused persons, and their attorneys, can raise a legal defense to challenge any charges under this statute. A few common ones include:
- the defendant did not act with a criminal intent,
- the accused did not exhibit corrupt means, and/or
A violation of California Penal Code section 85 is charged as a felony. This is opposed to:
The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail or prison for up to four years, or
- felony (or formal) probation.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. When is it a crime to bribe a legislator?
- 2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 85 PC?
- 3. What are the penalties for violating the law?
- 4. Can a person get an expungement?
- 5. Are there related offenses?
1. When is it a crime to bribe a legislator?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully convict a person of bribing a legislator:
- the defendant gave or offered a bribe to a legislator, and
- the defendant acted with the corrupt intent unlawfully to inﬂuence that legislator’s act, decision, or vote.1
For purposes of this law, a person acts with “corrupt intent” when he or she acts to wrongfully gain a ﬁnancial or other advantage for himself, herself, or someone else.2
PC 85 also makes it a crime for a person to try to corruptly influence a legislator. A prosecutor must prove the following to convict someone of this crime:
- the defendant tried to influence a legislator in his/her vote,
- he/she did so by corrupt means, as in menace or deceit, and
- the accused acted with an intent to corruptly influence.3
Note that a “legislator” includes:
- state legislators,
- members of city or county legislative bodies, and
- members of school district legislative bodies.4
2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 85 PC?
Our criminal defense attorneys draw upon several legal strategies to help clients defend bribery charges. A few common defenses include showing that:
- a defendant did not act with a criminal intent,
- a defendant did not act with corrupt means, and
- the accused was entrapped.
2.1 No criminal intent
Recall that a person is only guilty of a bribery charge if he/she acted with either:
- a corrupt intent, or
- an intent to corruptly influence.
Therefore, it is a defense for an accused to say that he/she did not act in such a manner.
2.2 No corrupt means
Also recall that a defendant is only guilty of trying to corruptly influence a legislator if he/she engaged in some type of corrupt means. It is always a defense, then, for an accused to show that he/she did not engage in this type of behavior.
Entrapment is a legal defense that says a person only committed a crime because authorities lured him/her into doing so. The defense works provided that the accused shows he/she only committed the crime because of the entrapment.
3. What are the penalties for violating the law?
A violation of this statute is a felony offense in California. The penalties include:
- a term of up to four years in jail or prison.
4. Can a person get an expungement?
A person convicted of bribing a legislator can only get an expungement provided that he/she receives probation (and completes it) in lieu of prison time.
California law says a person cannot get a crime expunged if it results in a prison term.
5. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to this offense. These are:
- bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68,
- bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93, and
- bribery by or of witnesses – PC 137 and 138
5.1 Bribery by or of executive officers – PC 67 and 68
As with bribing a legislator, bribing an executive officer leads to felony charges.
5.2 Bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93
As with PC 85, a person is only guilty under these laws if he/she acts with some type of corrupt intent.
5.3 Bribery by or of witnesses – PC 137 and 138
Unlike PC 85, where a person tries to influence a legislator’s vote or opinion, these statutes pertain to a witness’ testimony.
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.