Generally, two kinds of acts can constitute bribery. The first kind is conferring, or offering to confer, any benefit to another in return for which the receiver of the benefit will then violate a duty of fidelity to a third party. The second type, of course, is soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept the benefit just described. The New Jersey criminal code discusses bribes in two separate places. The first place treats commercial bribes. The second place treats bribes in official or political matters. We discuss both types on this page.
In the federal sphere, Congress considers bribes mostly in Title 18, Chapter 11, of the United States Code. Many of those provisions touch upon very specialized situations. For example, 18 U.S.C. 224 deals with bribery in sporting contests. And 18 U.S.C. 226 treats bribery affecting port security. Whether under New Jersey law or federal law, the consequences of offering a bribe, or accepting a bribe, if convicted, are severe.
This page covers both New Jersey and federal bribery laws. We discuss both types of bribery under New Jersey law. We cover federal bribery generally. While we cover the federal bribery statutes in not great detail, we do provide links to many of them.
Bribes under New Jersey Law:
New Jersey Commercial Bribery:
The New Jersey statute that defines commercial bribes is N.J.S. 2C:21-10. Commercial bribes require that the person soliciting, receiving, or agreeing to receive the benefit have any of numerous specified positions. Those specific positions are:
- An agent, partner, or employee of another;
- A trustee, guardian, or other fiduciary;
- A lawyer, physician, accountant, appraiser, or other professional adviser or informant;
- An officer, director, manager, or other participant in the direction of the affairs of an incorporated or unincorporated association;
- A labor official;
- An arbitrator or other purportedly disinterested adjudicator or referee;
- A person who holds himself out to the public as being engaged in the business of making disinterested selection, appraisal, or criticism of commodities, real properties, or services.
The seriousness of the offense depends upon the size of the offer, or exchange. Bribery involving benefits of $75,000.00 or more are crimes of the second degree. Where the benefit exceeds $1,000.00 and is less than $75,000.00, bribery is a crime of the third degree. All other briberies are crimes of the fourth degree.
Bribes in Official and Political Matters:
The New Jersey statute that defines bribery in official and political matters is N.J.S. 2C:27-2. Like commerical bribery, political and official bribery covers both the person providing (or offering to provide) the benefit as well as the person receiving (or offering to receive) the benefit. Measurement of the seriousness of the offense differs. Official or political bribery is a crime of the second degree unless the value of the benefit at issue is $200.00 or less. Where the value does not reach the $200.00 mark, bribery is a crime of the third degree.
As with commercial bribery, bribery in official and political matters must fall within particularly described situations. Those situations are:
- Decisions, opinions, recommendations, votes, or exercises of discretion of a public servant, party official, or voter on any public issue or in any public election;
- Decisions votes, recommendations, or exercises of of official discreton in a judicial or administrataive proceeding;
- Benefits as consideration for a violation of an official duty of a public servant or party official;
- Benefit as consideration for the performance of official duties.
Terms used in N.J.S. 2C:27-2 are defined in N.J.S. 2C:27-1. Terms there defined include benefit, party official, public servant, and administrative proceeding. These definitions are in typical legal gibberish. To give just one example, N.J.S. 2C:27-1h defines administrative proceeding to mean, “any proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, the outcome of which is required to be based on a record or documentation prescribed by law, or in which law or regulation is particularized in application to individuals.”
Bribes Under Federal Law:
As indicated above, most federal statutes concerning bribes are in Title 18, Chapter 11 of the United States Code. Chapter 11 extends from 18 U.S.C. 201 to 18 U.S.C. 227. Sections 220 through 223 are no longer in use. In addition to Chapter 11 bribery, Title 18, Chapter 9 defines bribery when it occurs in the context of bankruptcy proceedings. More particularly, 18 U.S.C. 152(6) makes it a crime to knowingly and fruadulently give, offer, receive, or attempt to obtain money, property, advantage, or promise for acting or forbearing to act in bankruptcy proceedings. Persons convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 152 are exposed to a term in federal prison of up to five years.
18 U.S.C. 201 is the federal analog of New Jersey's statute relating to bribes in official and political matters. “Public official” is expansively defined to include members of congress, and officers, employees, and persons acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department, agency or branch of government thereof, in any official function, under or by authority of any such department, agency, or branch of government, and jurors.
Specific bribery provisions included in Chapter 11 are as follows:
|Material Covered||Statute||Prison Exposure|
|Bribery of public officials and witnesses||18 U.S.C. 201||Two years or fifteen years, depending on the particular subsection|
|Definitions||18 U.S.C. 202||(Not applicable)|
|Compensation to members of Congress, officiers, and others in matters affecting the government||18 U.S.C. 203||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Practice in United States Court of Federal Claims or the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by Members of Congress||18 U.S.C. 204||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Activities of officers and employees in claims against and other matters affecting the government||18 U.S.C. 205||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Exemption of retired officers of the uniformed services||18 U.S.C. 206||(Not applicable)|
|Restrictions on former officers, employees, and elected officials of the executive and legislative branches||18 U.S.C. 207||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Acts affecting a personal financial interest||18 U.S.C. 208||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Salary of government officials and employees payable only by United States||18 U.S.C. 209||As provided in 18 U.S.C. 216|
|Offer to procure appointive public office||18 U.S.C. 210||One year|
|Acceptance or solicitation to obtain appointive public office||18 U.S.C. 211||One year|
|Offer of loan or gratuity to financial institution examiner||18 U.S.C. 212||One year|
|Acceptance of loan or gratutiy by financial institution examiner||18 U.S.C. 213||One year|
|Offer for procurement of Federal Reserve bank loan and discount of commercial paper||18 U.S.C. 214||One year|
|Receipt of commissions or gifts for procuring loans||18 U.S.C. 215||One year|
|Penalties and Injunctions||18 U.S.C. 216||One year. However, if the conduct was willful, then five years. (It is the rare case where the conduct will be found to be not willful.)|
|Acceptance of consideration for adjustment of farm indebtedness||18 U.S.C. 217||One year|
|Voiding transactions in violation of chapter; recovery by the United states||18 U.S.C. 218||(Not applicable)|
|Officers and employees acting as agents of foreign principals||18 U.S.C. 219||Two years|
|Bribery in sporting contests||18 U.S.C. 224||Five years|
|Continuing financial crimes enterprise||18 U.S.C. 225||Life. (Minimum ten years)|
|Bribery affecting port security||18 U.S.C. 226||Fifteen years|
|Wrongfully influencing a private entity's employment decisions by a Member of Congress||18 U.S.C. 227||Fifteen years|
And, of course, all of these convictions expose the defendant to stiff monetary penalties.
You Need a Skilled and Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
As indicated above, whether under New Jersey law or federal law, the consequences of offering a bribe, or accepting a bribe, if convicted, are severe. Persons charged, or who may be charged with offenses involving bribes need a skilled and understanding criminal defense firm on their side. Allan Marain, Norman Epting, Jr., and Judson L. Hand have the skill and experience to handle charges involving bribes. They offer an initial no-cost no-obligation consultation. They would welcome the opportunity to review the situation.