Bribery of County Supervisors Laws Explained | Penal Code 165 PC

Every person who gives or offers a bribe to any member of any common council, board of supervisors, or board of trustees of any county, city and county, city, or public corporation, with intent to corruptly influence such member in his action on any matter or subject pending before, or which is afterward to be considered by, the body of which he is a member, and every member of any of the bodies mentioned in this section who receives, or offers or agrees to receive any bribe upon any understanding that his official vote, opinion, judgment, or action shall be influenced thereby, or shall be given in any particular manner or upon any particular side of any

question or matter, upon which he may be required to act in his official capacity, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, and upon conviction thereof shall, in addition to said punishment, forfeit his office, and forever be disfranchised and disqualified from holding any public office or trust.

Definition of Bribe

Bribe has a broad definition under california Law. A bribe has happened when a public offical such as a county supervisor has received money or something of value in return for a vote.

What is bribery of county supervisors under penal code section 165 PC?

The Penal Code §165 pc prohibits bribes to or by county supervisors and other local government officials.

How does the prosecutor prove bribery of county supervisors?

To prove that you are guilty of bribery of or by county supervisors or other local government officials, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements1:

  • you gave or offered2 to a supervisor OR a supervisor received, offered, or offered to receive3;
  • a bribe4
  • corrupt intent5
  • to unlawfully influence the supervisor’s official act6

The types of local government officials that are included in this section include the following:

  • common council members
  • board of supervisors members
  • county or city board of trustees members
  • public corporation’s member

How It Works:

Example:

A constituent from Thomas’ (county supervisor) district, mailed a check for $500 to Thomas with a note that said the fee was to incentivize Thomas to set up a private meeting at a coffee shop to discuss placing on Thomas’ agenda an issue that was of high concern to the constituent.  The constituent also added that “there is more where this came from!”  The constituent could be charged with bribery of county supervisors because he gave/offered the $500 with intent to influence the supervisor’s decision to place an item on the agenda that he would not otherwise place on the agenda.  Moreover, the constituent acted with corrupt intent because he used the money to incentivize the supervisor to act in a way that benefits the constituent.

Example:

James, a county supervisor received $20,000 total in bribes from a city contractor in return for helping the contractor to get business with the county.  In this case, both James and the contractor could be charged with bribery of a county supervisor under penal code 165 because both acted with corrupt intent to wrongfully gain financial advantage.

Example:

Sarah, a member of a public pharmaceutical corporation, sought to reward doctors through “gifts” for heavy prescription of the company’s drugs.  Sarah likely could be charged bribery of a county supervisor under California law because she was using gifts to incentive doctors to prescribe the company’s drugs.

Who can be charged with bribery of county supervisors?

Generally anyone who offers a bribe to any of the officials as defined above with corrupt intent can be charged with bribery.  Also any of the members of the supervisory board and other local government officials as listed above can be charged.  Moreover, even if the briber does not state specific words and does not engage in specific behavior, as long as the language used and the circumstances clearly show intent to bribe, he/she can be charged with bribery.  Additionally, any official, as defined above, who requests or agrees to receive a bribe with corrupt intent can be charged with bribery.

How can you fight a charge of bribery of county supervisors?

There are several defenses that your attorney can assert on your behalf to fight a charge of bribery.  Here are the most common ones:

  • Lack of corrupt intent: because one of the elements the prosecutor has to show is that the defendant had corrupt intent, if you can show that you acted without such intent, you cannot be charged with bribery.
  • Coercion ((“Coercion” is when you were forced to perform an act that you would not have otherwise performed.  Extortion is bribery with the additional element of coercion.  Accordingly, the defendant cannot be guilty of receiving a bribe and extortion in the same transaction. (People v. Powell (1920) 50 Cal.App. 436, 441 [195 P. 456].)))
  • Entrapment is conduct by a law enforcement agent inducing a person to commit an offense that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit and therefore may be a defense to criminal liability.  In such a situation, because the idea originated with the law enforcement and not with the defendant himself/herself, it would serve as a defense to criminal liability. 7)
  • Intoxication: voluntary intoxication can be a defense if you can show that as a result of being intoxicated, you were unable to form the corrupt intent that the prosecutor has to prove.

What are the penalties, punishment and sentencing guidelines for bribery of county supervisors?

  • punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years;
  • upon conviction, forfeiture of office; and
  • forever disqualified from holding office

Related Offenses

Hiring An Attorney

The state of California has implemented tough bribery laws, and in consultation with our clients we come up with the most effective defense strategy for your case.  If you meet the criteria and the District Attorney’s office indicts you it is imperative that you have an attorney that is able to defend you against these charges.

At the Aizman Law Firm, we can help you with questions you might have about the evidence presented against you. If you need to speak to an attorney about your case please call our office at: (818) 351-9555.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 

Footnotes

  1. Elements. Pen. Code, § 165 []
  2. The supervisor does not need to have accepted the bribe. []
  3. Offering a bribe does not require specific words or behavior, as long as the language used and the circumstances clearly show intent to bribe.  The thing offered does not need to actually be given, exist at the time it is offered, or have a specific value. []
  4. The word “bribe” signifies anything of value or advantage, present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking to give any, asked, given, or accepted, with a corrupt intent to influence, unlawfully, the person to whom it is given, in his or her action, vote, or opinion, in any public or official capacity.  Bribe Defined. Pen. Code, § 7(6). []
  5. Corrupt Intent Is an Element of Bribery. People v. Gliksman (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 343, 351 [144 Cal.Rptr. 451]; People v. Zerillo (1950) 36 Cal.2d 222, 232 [223 P.2d 223].  A person acts with corrupt intent when he or she acts to wrongfully gain a financial or other advantage for himself, herself, or someone else.  Corrupt Intent Defined. Pen. Code, § 7, subd. 3. []
  6. “Official act” means any vote, opinion, or decision that the supervisor makes during his/her official duty. []
  7. The crime is complete once an offer is made. Accordingly, subsequent efforts to procure corroborative evidence do not constitute entrapment. (People v. Finkelstin (1950) 98 Cal.App.2d 545, 553 [220 P.2d 934]; People v. Bunkers (1905) 2 Cal.App. 197, 209 [84 P. 364]. []

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