Penal Code § 86 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a legislator to ask for or to receive a bribe. A legislator includes state legislators and members of city or county legislative bodies. A violation of this law is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in jail or prison.
While this statute punishes a legislator for taking a bribe, Penal Code 85 PC punishes a person for bribing a legislator.
The language of PC 86 states that, “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…is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.”
Examples of unlawful acts
- a state legislator taking $12,000 to vote “no” on a particular piece of legislation.
- a school district board member receiving cash to use his public office to support a specific initiative.
- a local elected official asking a store owner for a free vacation to vote for a specific ordinance.
A legislator charged under this statute can challenge it with a legal defense. A few effective defenses include showing that:
- the accused was not a legislator in state or local government,
- the defendant did not exhibit corrupt intent,
- the defendant was entrapped.
The crime is punishable by:
- custody in state prison for up to four years, or
- felony (or formal) probation.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is it a crime for a legislator to receive a bribe?
- 2. What are common defenses to Penal Code 86 PC?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there related offenses?
1. When is it a crime for a legislator to receive a bribe?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully convict a legislator under this statute:
- the defendant was a legislative officer,
- the defendant requested, took, or agreed to take a bribe,
- when the defendant requested, took, or agreed to take the bribe, he/she represented that the bribe would unlawfully inﬂuence his/her official act, decision, vote, or opinion, and
- the defendant acted with the corrupt intent that his/her public or official duty would be unlawfully inﬂuenced.1
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
Note that a “legislator” includes:
- state legislators,
- members of city or county legislative bodies, and
- members of school district legislative bodies.3
2. What are common defenses to Penal Code 86 PC?
An accused can contest a bribery charge with a legal defense. A few common defenses include the defendant showing that he/she:
- was not a legislator,
- acted without a corrupt intent, and/or
- was entrapped by police officers.
2.1 No legislator
PC 86 only applies to legislators. Therefore, a defendant can always challenge a charge by showing that he/she did not hold the status of a legislative officer at the time of any alleged crime.
2.2 No corrupt intent
Recall that a legislator is only guilty under this statute if he/she acted with a corrupt intent when asking for or taking a bribe. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that he/she did not act with this intent.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers lure or coax a person into committing a crime. It is an acceptable defense provided that the accused shows he/she only committed the crime because of the entrapment by the peace officers.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of this statute is charged as a felony.
The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in state prison for up to four years, and/or
- substantial fines.
A judge may award a defendant with felony probation in lieu of prison time.
4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
A legislator can only get a bribery conviction expunged if he/she receives probation in place of a prison term.
Under California law, persons convicted of a crime cannot get an expungement if the conviction results in prison time.
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 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
Note the difference in the status of the offender. While PC 86 applies to legislators, these laws focus on executive officers.
5.2 Bribery by or of judges and jurors – PC 92 and 93
As with PC 86, a violation of these laws results in felony charges.
5.3 Bribery by or of witnesses – PC 137 and 138
Like with PC 86, a person is only guilty under these laws if he/she acts with a corrupt intent.
For additional guidance or to discuss your criminal case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. We have offices in Los Angeles and throughout California.
- Penal Code section 86 PC; CALCRIM 2603 – Requesting or Taking a Bribe. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition). See also People v. Diedrich (1982) 31 Cal.3d 263, 182 Cal.Rptr. 354, 643 P.2d 971; People v. Pic’l (1982) 31 Cal.3d 731, 183 Cal.Rptr. 685, 646 P.2d 847; People v. Powell (1920) 50 Cal.App. 436, 195 P. 456.
- See same. See also People v. Gliksman (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 343; People v. Zerillo (1950) 36 Cal.2d 222, 223 P.2d 223.
- California Penal Code 86 PC; see also People v. Strohl (1976) 57 Cal.App.3d 347.