Penal Code § 93 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a judge or juror to request or accept a bribe. Doing so is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in jail or prison.
The language of the statute reads:
93. (a) Every judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, and every person authorized by law to hear or determine any question or controversy, who asks, receives, or agrees to receive, any bribe, upon any agreement or understanding that his or her vote, opinion, or decision upon any matters or question which is or may be brought before him or her for decision, shall be influenced thereby, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and, in cases where no bribe has been actually received, by a restitution fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) or not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or, in cases where a bribe was actually received, by a restitution fine of at least the actual amount of the bribe received or two thousand dollars ($2,000), whichever is greater, or any larger amount of not more than double the amount of any bribe received or ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is greater.
(b) In imposing a restitution fine under this section, the court shall consider the defendant’s ability to pay the fine.
Examples of illegal acts:
- a juror in a jury trial accepting $10,000 to find the defendant guilty.
- an arbitrator hinting that he will return a favorable opinion for a “special donation.”
- a judge accepting a payment for an acquittal.
A person facing bribery charges can raise a legal defense to challenge them. A few common defenses include the accused showing that:
- a bribe had no influence on his/her decision,
- no decision was rendered in an official matter, and/or
- he/she was entrapped.
The offense is punishable by custody in state prison for up to four years.
Note that a judge does have the authority to award a defendant with felony (or formal) probation in lieu of a prison term.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What does Penal Code 93 PC prohibit?
- 2. What are the best defenses to this charge?
- 3. What are the penalties for taking a bribe?
- 4. Can an accused get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there related offenses?
1. What does Penal Code 93 PC prohibit?
A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a defendant under this statute:
- the defendant was a judicial officer of the State of California,
- 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 or opinion, and
- the defendant acted with the corrupt intent that his/her public or official duty would be unlawfully inﬂuenced.1
For purposes of this statute, a “judicial officer” includes:
- arbitrators, and
Note that this statute does not require any specific action to be pending on the date a bribe is asked for or received. The bribe just has to be taken to affect any future case or decision.3
2. What are the best defenses to this charge?
An officer charged under these laws can raise a legal defense on his/her behalf. Some effective offenses include the officer, or his/her attorney, showing that:
- the bribe had no influence on a decision.
- the bribe was not associated with an official matter.
- there was entrapment.
2.1 No influence on decision
Recall that a defendant is only guilty under this statute if a bribe actually influenced his/her decision. Therefore, an accused can challenge a charge by showing that, even though a bribe was taken, it had no influence on his/her opinion.
2.2 No official matter
Also, recall that a prosecutor can only show guilt by associating a bribe with a decision made in an “official matter” (like an actual legal case or proceeding). An officer, then, can contest an allegation by showing that a bribe was not made in connection with this type of proceeding.
This is a defense where the accused shows that authorities lured him/her into committing a crime. It works in bribery cases as long as the defendant shows he/she only committed the crime because of the entrapment.
3. What are the penalties for taking a bribe?
A violation of this statute is charged as a felony.
The offense is punishable by:
A judge can grant a defendant with felony probation in lieu of prison time.
4. Can an accused get a conviction expunged?
An accused can get a bribery conviction expunged.
This is provided he/she received probation (and completed it) as opposed to a prison term. Defendants cannot get expungements for offenses that result in time in prison.
5. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to a judge or juror taking a bribe. These are:
- bribery of a judge or juror – PC 92,
- bribery by and of executive officers – PC 68 and PC 67, and
- bribery by and of legislators – PC 85 and 86.
5.1 Bribery of a judge or juror – PC 92
Penal Code 92 PC makes it a crime for a person to bribe any judicial officer (including judges and jurors).
Note that while PC 93 punishes a judicial officer from taking a bribe, this statute criminalizes the act of bribing the officer.
5.2 Bribery by and of executive officers – PC 68 and PC 67
Penal Code 68 PC is the California statute that makes it a criminal offense for an executive officer to ask for or receive a bribe. Penal Code 67 PC is a similar law that makes it a crime for a person to bribe an executive officer.
These statutes focus on “executive officers,” while PC 93 is limited to “judicial officers.”
5.3 Bribery by and of legislators – PC 85 and 86
As with the bribery of a judge, a violation of this law is charged as a felony.
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.