Penal Code 92 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to bribe a judge, juror, or any person authorized to hear and determine a legal matter. A violation of this law is a felony offense punishable by up to 4 years in jail or state prison.
The language of PC 92 states that, “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…is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.”
Examples of illegal acts
- giving a judge $1,000 to acquit a defendant in a jury trial.
- depositing $5,000 in a juror’s bank account in turn for a guilty vote in a civil proceeding.
- handing an arbitrator an expensive piece of jewelry in a trade for a favorable opinion at an arbitration.
A person charged with bribery can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. Some effective defenses include the accused showing that he/she:
The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail or state prison for up to four years, or
- felony (or formal) probation.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What is a crime under Penal Code 92?
- 2. Can a defendant raise a legal defense?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Can an accused get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there related crimes?
1. What is a crime under Penal Code 92?
A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a defendant under this statute:
- he/she gave or offered to give a judicial officer something of value, and
- he/she acted with the corrupt intent to influence the officer’s decision in an official matter.1
For purposes of this statute, a “judicial officer” includes:
- arbitrators, and
- umpires. 2
Note that the law does not require any specific action to be pending on the date the bribe is received. The bribe just has to be given to affect any future case or decision.3
2. Can a defendant raise a legal defense?
A person accused under this statute has the right to raise a legal defense. A few common defenses include:
- the defendant did not act with criminal intent.
- the accused was entrapped.
- the defendant was arrested following a coerced confession.
2.1 No criminal intent
Recall that a person is only guilty under these laws if he/she acted with a corrupt intent to influence an officer’s decision. This means a defendant can always raise the defense that he/she did not act with this intent.
Entrapment is a legal defense that says a person only committed a crime because law enforcement lured or coaxed him/her to do so. The defense works provided that the accused shows he/she only committed the crime because of the entrapment.
2.3 Coerced confession
California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.
If a party can show that the police coerced him/her into a confession, then:
- the judge may exclude the confession from evidence, or
- the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he did not commit.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of Penal Code 92 is a felony offense.
The possible penalties include:
- custody in jail or state prison 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 an accused get a conviction expunged?
An accused can only get a bribery conviction expunged if he/she was awarded (and successfully completed) probation.
A defendant cannot get an expungement for an offense that leads to a prison term.
5. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to bribing a judge. These are:
- a judge or juror asking or taking a bribe – PC 93,
- bribery by or of witnesses – PC 137 and 138, and
- bribery by and of an executive officer – PC 67 and PC 68.
5.1 Judge or juror asking or taking a bribe – PC 93
Penal Code 93 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a judicial officer to ask for, or receive, any bribe.
While PC 92 punishes the person that bribes the judicial officer, this statute makes it a crime for the officer to accept the bribe.
5.2 Bribery by or of witnesses – PC 137 and 138
As with PC 92 offenses, convictions under these code sections are felony offenses.
5.3 Bribery by and of an executive officer – PC 67 and PC 68
Penal Code 67 PC is the California law that makes it a crime for a person to bribe any executive officer. Penal Code 68 PC is a similar law that makes it a crime for an executive officer, a ministerial officer, or public employee to ask for or take a bribe.
Note that while PC 92 applies to judicial officers, these statutes are reserved for executive officers.
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 92 PC.
- See same.
- United States v. Frega (1999) 179 F.3d 793.