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Trying to Get Out of Your Charges? You May Not Want to Bargain with the Police

In a rather unusual case, a Florida woman who was arrested on a variety of charges also had three counts of bribery added to charges alleging drunk driving and possession of drugs after she is alleged to have (unsuccessfully) offered to perform sexual acts for the arresting officer and two additional law enforcement officers in exchange for her other charges being dropped. Rather than accepting the woman’s alleged offers, law enforcement officers filed three additional charges of bribery against the woman. At this point in the proceedings, the woman is presumed innocent of all charges.

Bribery Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, bribery can occur whenever a person offers, gives, or promises a public servant any “pecuniary” (i.e., money) or other benefit not authorized by law. In order to constitute bribery, this must be done with an intent to influence the public servant’s performance of any duty or discretionary function.

It is not considered bribery if:

  • The person who was the target was not a “public servant” (i.e., no bribery would have occurred if the woman in the news story made her alleged offer to a private businessman, although it may be considered another crime);
  • There is no offer to exchange anything of monetary or other value or benefit. In other words, simply asking a police officer to “cut you a break” is not bribery; and
  • The offered exchange was not done with the intent to influence the public servant’s actions. (Although the prosecution must prove this element and all other elements true beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution can ask the court or jury to conclude that your offered benefit was for no other purpose than to influence the public servant – even if you do not explicitly say why you are making your offer).

Bribery is a second degree felony.

Defending Against Bribery Charges

It is not a defense that the person who was the target of the bribery attempt was not actually qualified to do the thing requested. So for example, using the allegations made against the woman as an example, it would not be a defense to her bribery charges that the two jail officers had no authority to not file charges or dismiss charges filed by the arresting officer.

Instead, a defense to bribery ought to look first to the elements of the offense and attack any weaknesses or gaps. For example, is there proof that the individual the defendant is said to have bribed was a “public official”? Was something of value or benefit offered as part of the alleged bribe?

South Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is experienced and knowledgeable in defending Florida residents against all manner of criminal charges. The sooner you contact his office, the sooner he can conduct a thorough investigation into your case and determine the best defense strategy for your case. Contact his South Florida office today by calling (305) 670-9919.

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