In Colorado, offering money or another benefit to a public official to influence their actions is bribery. Offering a bribe or asking for a bribe is a felony. The penalties for bribery of a public official includes up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is bribery?
- 2. What are the penalties for bribery?
- 3. What kinds of bribery are illegal in Colorado?
- 3.1. Bribery C.R.S. 18-8-302
- 3.2. Compensation for Past Official Behavior C.R.S. 18-8-303
- 3.3. Soliciting Unlawful Compensation C.R.S. 18-8-304
- 3.4. Trading in Public Office C.R.S. 18-8-305
- 4. Related Offenses
Bribery involves offering money, a promise, or favor to influence the actions of a person in a position of trust. Bribery could involve offering money to a police officer in order to get out of a ticket, or paying a politician millions of dollars to get a lucrative public construction project.
Bribery is illegal for the person offering a bribe and for the official who asks for a bribe. Bribery is not always conducted in an obvious way. A politician may not come out directly and say that if you pay them a certain amount of money they will vote a certain way. Bribery can be difficult to prove in court, and prosecutors often rely on indirect evidence to show that bribery took place.
There may be some overlap between criminal bribery and lobbying. Lobbying involves supporting a public official with campaign contributions while advocating on behalf of a certain group. This may seem like a minor distinction, especially if the public official votes in favor of the lobby's position after receiving a “donation.”
Bribery is a felony in Colorado. Most bribery is charged as a class 3 felony. The minimum penalty for a class 3 felony conviction for bribery is 4 years in prison and a fine of $3,000. The maximum penalty for bribery is 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. In addition, there is a mandatory parole period of 5 years.
Penalties for a felony conviction go beyond jail time and fines. A felony conviction can disqualify you from jury duty and prohibit you from holding a public office in the future. A felony record can also make it difficult to find a job.
Bribery is considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” or a crime against the public good. Crimes of moral turpitude have immigration consequences. If you are applying for citizenship, a bribery conviction may be a deportable offense.
There are a number of statutes in Colorado that address bribery and bribery-related offenses. This includes compensation for past actions, soliciting compensation, and attempting to influence public officials. The penalties for these bribery offenses range from a class 3 felony to a class 2 misdemeanor.
A person commits bribery if he or she offers or provides any pecuniary benefit upon a public servant with the intent to influence the public servant's vote, judgment, or other action.
A pecuniary benefit includes money, property, commercial interests, or other forms which provide economic gain.1
Bribery is also a criminal offense for any public servant to solicit, accept, or agree to accept any pecuniary benefit with the understanding that the public servant's vote, opinion, judgment, or other action will be influenced.
Public servants include any officer or employee of the government, whether elected, appointed, or designated to occupy the position. This includes a police officer, fire marshall, prosecutor, mayor, state senator, mayor, city clerk, health officers, public works officers, code enforcement workers, and other city, county, state, or federal officials.2
It is still a criminal offense if the public official is compensated after the fact. It is not a defense for a public official to wait until after the made a certain decision, opinion, vote, or recommendation to later ask for or accept any pecuniary benefit. Soliciting or accepting a benefit for past official behavior is a class 6 felony. Penalties include 12-18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
It is a criminal offense for a public servant to request pecuniary benefit for performing an official action knowing they are required to perform that action without compensation. Soliciting unlawful compensation (Colorado CRS 18-8-304) is a class 2 misdemeanor. Penalties include 3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Trading in public office includes offering or conferring a pecuniary benefit upon a public servant or party officer with the agreement that the public servant nominate or appoint a particular person. Similarly, soliciting or accepting a pecuniary benefit with the agreement to nominate a candidate or appoint a particular person to public office is a criminal offense. Trading in public office is a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties include 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Bribery may be related to other criminal offenses. These include rigging of public contests, failing to disclose a conflict of interest, and attempting to influence a public servant.
In Colorado, it is a criminal offense to rig a contest under C.R.S. 18-5-402. This includes conferring a benefit on a participant, tampering with the contest, or engage in a contest knowing that the contest is not conducted in compliance with the rules. Rigging a public contest is a class 3 misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Public servants are required to disclose a conflict of interest when they have any discretionary function in connection with a related government contract, purchase, or financial transaction. The public servant has to give 72 hours advance written notice to the Colorado secretary of state for a known potential conflict of interest. Failing to disclose a conflict of interest is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Attempting to influence a public servant through deceit, economic reprisal, or threat of violence with the intent to affect the public servant's decision or action is a criminal offense. It is a class 4 felony to attempt to influence a public servant. Penalties include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Call us for help...
If you have been accused of bribery or attempting to bribe a public official, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal bribery offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
- C.R.S. 18-8-301(3)
- C.R.S. 18-1-901(3)(o)