Bribery of Public Officials

Under New York Law, giving or offering to give something of value to a public servant with the understanding that the public servant’s vote, opinion, or judgment will be influenced is a crime. This crime is called New York Bribery. There are three different New York Bribery charges in the Penal Law. Specifically, they are:

All of these charges are felonies, and thus can result in a permanent criminal record and jail time. Bribery in the First Degree is the most serious charge, while Bribery in the Third Degree is the least serious. The difference in these charges depends on the value of the bribe offered and is explained in further detail below.

Bribery Not Involving Public Officials

Article 180 of the New York Penal Law contains Bribery charges that do not involve public officials. Specifically, these New York Bribery charges are:

These charges are explained in greater detail below.

New York Bribery in the Third Degree

Bribery in the Third Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 200.00. Under New York Penal Law Section 200.00, a person is guilty of Bribery in the Third Degree when:

  1. He confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon a public servant
  2. Upon an agreement or understanding that such public servant`s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant will thereby be influenced.

Penalties and Sentencing for Bribery in the Third Degree

Under New York Law, Bribery in the Third Degree is a Class “D” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Indeterminate sentence up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison;
  • Determinate sentence of 1 year;
  • Probation (only if there are mitigating circumstances).

New York Bribery in the Second Degree

Bribery in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 200.03. Under Penal Law Section 200.03, a person is guilty of Bribery in the Second Degree when:

  1. He confers, or offers or agrees to confer,
  2. Any benefit valued in excess of $5,000,
  3. Upon a public servant upon an agreement or understanding that such public servant’s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant will thereby be influenced.

This charge is distinguishable from Bribery in the Third Degree because it requires that the value of benefit conferred or attempted to be conferred is over $5,000.

Penalties and Sentencing for Bribery in the Second Degree

Bribery in the Second Degree is a Class “C” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • An indeterminate sentence of up to 5 to 15 years in prison

New York Bribery in the First Degree

The most serious of New York Bribery Charges is Bribery in the First Degree. This charge is codified in Section 200.04 of the New York Penal Law. Under New York Penal Law Section 200.04, a person is guilty of Bribery in the First Degree when s/he confers, or offers or agrees to confer:

  1. Any benefit upon a public servant upon an agreement or understanding that such public servant’s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant will thereby be influenced in the investigation, arrest, detention, prosecution or incarceration of any person for the commission or alleged commission of a class A felony or an attempt to commit any such class A felony; OR
  2. Any benefit valued in excess of one hundred thousand dollars upon a public servant upon an agreement or understanding that such public servant’s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant will thereby be influenced.

Simplified, New York Bribery in the First Degree is offering or agreeing to offer (1) something of value in exchange for influence over a prosecution of Class “A” Felony or (2) over $100,000 to a public servant on an understanding that the public servant’s vote would be influenced.

Penalties and Sentencing for Bribery in the First Degree

Under New York Law, Bribery in the First Degree is a Class “B” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Minimum Indeterminate Sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison;
  • Maximum Indeterminate Sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

New York Commercial Bribing

  • Commercial Bribing in the First Degree (Penal Law Section 180.03), AND
  • Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree (Penal Law Section 180.00)

New York Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree

New York Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 180.00. Under Penal Law Section 180.00, a person is guilty of Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree when:

  1. S/he confers, or offers or agrees to confer,
  2. Any benefit upon any employee, agent or fiduciary
  3. Without the consent of the latter’s employer or principal,
  4. With intent to influence his conduct in relation to his employer’s or principal’s affairs.

Sentencing and Penalties for New York Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree

New York Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree is a Class “A” Misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • Probation;
  • Conditional Discharge (with conditions imposed by the sentencing court);
  • Unconditional Discharge (no conditions imposed by the sentencing court);
  • Time served.

New York Commercial Bribing in the First Degree

The New York Commercial Bribing in the First Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 180.03. Under New York Penal Law Section 180.03, a person is guilty of Commercial Bribing in the First Degree when:

  1. He confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon any employee, agent or fiduciary
  2. Without the consent of the latter’s employer or principal,
  3. With intent to influence his conduct in relation to his employer’s or principal’s affairs, AND
  4. When the value of the benefit conferred or offered or agreed to be conferred exceeds $1,000 AND causes economic harm to the employer or principal in an amount exceeding $250.

This charge differs from the New York Commercial Bribing in the Second Degree in that it requires that the benefit conferred be over $1,000 AND causes economic harm to the employer or principal over $250.

Sentencing and Penalties for New York Commercial Bribing in the First Degree

New York Commercial Bribing in the First Degree is a Class E Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Indeterminate sentence up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison;
  • Determinate sentence up to 1 year in prison;
  • Probation;
  • Conditional discharge (with conditions of sentence being imposed by the sentencing court, such as restitution or completion of community service);
  • Unconditional discharge (no conditions imposed by the sentencing court).

New York Bribing a Labor Official

New York charge of Bribing a Labor Official is codified in New York Penal Law Section 180.15. Under New York Penal Law Section 180.15, a person is guilty of Bribing a Labor Official when:

  1. With intent to influence a labor official in respect to any of his acts, decisions or duties as such labor official,
  2. S/he confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon him.

Who is Considered to be a Labor Official?

The definition of the term “labor official” comes from New York Penal Law Section 180.10. A “labor official” means “any duly appointed representative of a labor organization or any duly appointed trustee or representative of an employee welfare trust fund.”

Sentencing and Penalties for New York Bribing a Labor Official

New York Bribing a Labor Official is a Class “D” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • A maximum indeterminate sentence up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison;
  • A determinate sentence of 1 year in jail;
  • Probation (if there are mitigating circumstances).

New York Sports Bribing

Another New York Bribery charge is Sports Bribing. This charge is codified in New York Penal Law Section 180.40. Under Penal Law Section 180.40, a person is guilty of New York Sports Bribing when:

  1. S/he confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon a sports participant with intent to influence him not to give his best efforts in a sports contest; OR
  2. Confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon a sports official with intent to influence him to perform his duties improperly.

Thus, under New York Law it is a crime to offer money to a sports participant as well as to a sports official in order not to improperly influence their duties.

Sentencing and Penalties for New York Sports Bribing

New York Sports Bribing is a Class “D” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • A maximum indeterminate sentence up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison;
  • A determinate sentence of 1 year in jail;
  • Probation (if there are mitigating circumstances).

Defenses to New York Bribery Charges

Each case is unique and requires many hours to review all the documents and develop a successful defense strategy. With that some common defenses to bribery charges are:

  • Lack of Knowledge – you were not aware that the payment you were making to a public servant was a bribe or would in any way influence his or her opinion;
  • Lack of Agreement – although the money changed hands, there was no agreement between you and the public servant that the financial benefit would change the public servant’s opinion or vote.
  • Coercion or Extortion – Under Penal Law Section 200.05, coercion or extortion is a defense to bribery charges involving a public servant and a labor official. That is, if you bribed a public servant or a labor official as a result of being coerced or extorted, you have a viable defense to New York Bribery charges.

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