Federal law makes it a crime to try to “fix” the outcome of a sporting game through bribery. Penalties include fines or possibly prison. And if the alleged bribery occurred in Nevada, the defendant may also be prosecuted with state bribery charges in addition to federal charges.
This page explains the federal crime of bribery in sporting contests in Nevada. Scroll down to learn about the law, standard defenses, and possible punishments for both state and federal bribery convictions.
Bribery is the act of offering money or something of value to someone else in exchange for a promise to do something. Therefore, the legal definition of “sports bribery” under federal law is when someone uses bribery to try to influence the course of a sporting event. Reno criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an example:
Example: The Detroit minor league baseball team is scheduled to play the Henderson Nevada team. Before the game, the owner of the Detroit team offers the umpire $1,000 to call the plays in Detroit’s favor. If the owner gets caught, he would be arrested and booked on federal charges of sports bribery.
Note that if the umpire in the above example accepted the bribe, he may be prosecuted for sports bribery as well. And even if the umpire decides at the last minute to call the game fairly, he would still be criminally liable for initially accepting the bribe.
Attempts and Conspiracy
It is irrelevant whether the bribery offer is declined or whether the game is actually influenced by the bribe. Merely the attempt to bribe or the conspiracy in Nevada criminal law to bribe is sufficient for someone to be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 224. Elko NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker explains:
Example: A gambler in California calls a UNLV basketball player and offers him $1,000 to fake an injury in the next game. Even if the basketball player declines, the gambler still may be arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service in Nevada and indicted on federal sports bribery charges for the attempted bribery.
Definition of “sporting events”
Federal sports bribery charges apply to any type of sporting event in Nevada as long as the game is announced to the public beforehand. It does not matter if the game involves professional or amateur athletes.
Federal versus state laws for sports bribery
A sports bribery charge can be prosecuted under federal law only if the alleged scheme involves “interstate commerce.” This is a very broad standard which comprises any crime that is carried out by using interstate transportation or communication. In the above examples, the defendants are automatically liable under federal law because the teams are from separate states.
Note that Nevada sports bribery laws are very similar to federal sports bribery laws. Therefore a defendant may be prosecuted under both federal and state law in Nevada for the same alleged act of bribery. However, an allegation of sports bribery in Nevada that does not involve interstate commerce may be prosecuted only in state court.
The best way to fight federal charges for “bribery in sporting events” in Nevada always turns on the specific circumstances of the case. The following are some of the more common defense strategies:
- Lack of intent to bribe. Bribery is a specific intent crime. This means that a defendant should not be convicted of sports bribery unless he/she intended for the bribe to influence the outcome of the game. If the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada cannot prove that the defendant had the necessary criminal intent, the case should be dismissed.
- Lack of interstate commerce. Nevada federal court has no jurisdiction to hear a sports bribery charge in Nevada if the circumstances of the case do not cross state lines or affect interstate commerce. As long as the defense attorney can show that the case was entirely an intrastate affair, federal charges should be dropped.
- Lack of evidence. As with all criminal cases, a federal jury may convict a defendant only if the jury believes that the prosecution proved his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant’s attorney can show that the government’s case is weak, holey, or inconsistent, then the defendant may be acquitted of federal sports bribery.
All federal criminal cases in Nevada are handled either in Las Vegas at the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse or in Reno at the Thompson Courthouse. If a defendant is convicted of violating federal sports bribery laws, then the court may impose:
- a fine, and/or
- up to five (5) years in federal prison
The amount of the fine depends on the amount of money involved in the bribery and any damages caused by the bribery. And because there are currently no federal prisons in Nevada, defendants serving federal sentences are usually incarcerated in either the North Las Vegas Detention Center or the Washoe County Detention Center.
Sports bribery is a category C felony in Nevada. Therefore, a person convicted in state court of the Nevada crime of sports bribery faces:
- one (1) to five (5) years in Nevada State Prison and
- maybe a fine of up to $10,000
Remember that it is possible for someone to be convicted of sports bribery under both federal and state laws in Nevada. If this occurs, the person would serve the state and federal sentences one after the other.
Arrested? Call a lawyer . . . .
If you have been accused of breaking federal sports bribery laws, call our Nevada criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our combined decades of experience to try to negotiate a charge reduction or even a full dismissal, and we are also ready to take your matter all the way to trial.