Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys with the Experience and Expertise to Fight Bribery Charges
Bribery refers to the act of offering compensation in order to influence the actions of another. The crime of bribery often arises in the case of public officials, where a private citizen may offer something of value to the public official in order to influence how the public official executes his public duties. Bribery crimes may also arise where a person attempts to influence the actions of a private citizen that has a fiduciary duty, such as a bank officer.
A great number of bribery cases are charged as conspiracies. In a conspiracy, the government alleges that two or more actors agreed to engage in criminal conduct. Bribery crimes are particularly likely to elicit additional conspiracy charges because they often entail at least two players – the person offering the bribe and the person accepting the bribe.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) generally investigates bribery cases. Within the DOJ, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) often assist in investigating suspicions of bribery, especially where public officials may be involved. The DOJ and FBI may also cooperate with state and local law enforcement agencies, particularly where a state or local public official may be involved in the bribery scheme. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may become involved in the investigation if the bribery involves a financial institution or financial transaction within the purview of its oversight.
What Is Prohibited?
Bribery of a Public Official [18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1)]: A person may be guilty of bribing a public official if that person directly or indirectly gives or promises to give something of value to the public official with the intent to corruptly influence the public official to perform or omit an official act in violation of the official’s public duty. An action is “corrupt” if it is intentionally performed with an unlawful purpose. A “public official” includes any officer, employee, or agent of the United States or any department, agency, or branch of the federal government who is acting in an official capacity. Notably, jurors sitting on a federal jury fall within the definition of public official for the purposes of this crime. An “official act” denotes any decision or action on any cause or proceeding that may be brought before a public official in his official capacity. [18 U.S.C. § 201(a)].
Illegal Gratuity to a Public Official (18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(A)): A person may be guilty of providing illegal gratuity to a public official if that person directly or indirectly gives or offers something of value to a public official because of an official act performed by the public official. There must be a relationship between the “something of value” given to the public official and specific official act for which it was conferred in order for a violation to occur. A “public official” includes any officer, employee, or agent of the United States or any department, agency, or branch of the federal government who is acting in an official capacity. Again, jurors sitting on a federal jury fall within the definition of public official for the purposes of this crime. An “official act” denotes any decision or action on any cause or proceeding that may be brought before a public official in his official capacity. [18 U.S.C. § 201(a)].
Bribery or Reward of a Bank Officer [18 U.S.C. § 215](a) (1): A person may be guilty of bribery of a bank officer if that person gives, or offers to give, something of value to a bank officer in connection with a business transaction and with the intent of influencing the bank officer. A “bank officer” may refer to any director, employee, agent, attorney, or other office of a financial institution. A person acts “corruptly” if that person intends to act with an unlawful purpose.
Conspiracy [18 U.S.C. § 371]: A person may be guilty of conspiracy if that person agrees with one or more other people to engage in criminal conduct and at least one of the individuals involved in the criminal scheme takes one overt act in furtherance of it. In order to be involved in a conspiracy, a person must know of the unlawful goals of the conspiracy, but the person does not need to have knowledge of all of the details of the scheme or all of the other individuals involved in the scheme. Under the law, person involved in a conspiracy is treated as the agent of all other people involved in the conspiracy. Therefore, that person is criminally liable for all actions taken by every other co-conspirator within the criminal scheme as if the person had committed those actions himself. Importantly, the illegal goals of the conspiracy need not be actually accomplished in order for the crime of conspiracy to have been committed, so long as at least one action in furtherance of the conspiracy has been taken by at least one co-conspirator.
What Are the Penalties?
The penalties for bribery are so severe as to be life altering. They include significant fines and long federal prison sentences.
- Bribery of a Public Official: The punishment for bribery of a public official includes up to fifteen years imprisonment and/or a criminal fine of up to three times the monetary equivalent of the “something of value” offered to the public official. [18 U.S.C. 201(b)].
- Illegal Gratuity to a Public Official: The punishment for providing an illegal gratuity to a public official includes criminal fines and up to two years in prison. [18 U.S.C. § 201(c)].
- Bribery or Reward of a Bank Officer: The penalty for bribery or reward of a bank officer hinges on the amount of the “something of value” offered or provided to the bank officer. If the amount is more than $1000, the penalties include fines of up to $1,000,000 or three times the value given, whichever is greater, as well as a prison sentence of up to 30 years incarceration in a federal prison. Where the amount of the “something of value” is worth less than $1,000, the penalties include fines and up to one year of incarceration in federal prison.
- Corruption: The punishment for conspiracy is contingent on the underlying crime that was the goal of the conspiracy. Most bribery crimes are felonies, making the conspiracy to commit those crimes punishable by a maximum of five years in federal prison as well as fines. Where the underlying crime is just a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit that crime is equivalent to the maximum penalty for that crime itself. Notably, the penalties for conspiracy to commit a crime are in addition to any penalties received for committing the crime itself.
Choosing the Right Defense Lawyer
With extremely harsh penalties on the line, anyone facing accusations of bribery needs to have a qualified federal criminal defense attorney to protect their personal and professional interests, their livelihood, and, most importantly, their freedom.
Federal Lawyers. Federal criminal charges require a federal criminal defense attorney. The average local defense attorney practices primarily in state court and will not have the federal experience necessary to present an aggressive defense against federal charges of bribery. Not only do federal criminal laws vary significantly from state criminal laws, the practices and procedures in federal criminal court also vary greatly from those in state court.
Criminal Defense Lawyer. Any qualified criminal defense attorney will have the following attributes:
- Proven Track Record
- Extensive Experience in Federal Court
- Comprehensive Knowledge of Federal Criminal Laws and Procedures
- Litigation & Trial Expertise
To make sure a potential lawyer is qualified to represent them, a client should inquire into the lawyer’s experience and track record. Clients would benefit from asking any potential criminal defense attorney these 3 CRITICAL QUESTIONS:
- How many federal criminal cases have you handled so far?
- How many of the federal criminal cases that you handled resulted in no civil and no criminal charges or dismissals for your clients?
- How many federal criminal cases have you tried in court?
Proven Defense Strategies
Oberheiden, P.C. distinguishes itself from other criminal defense firms though its proven defensive strategies. Our attorneys have developed these strategies based on years of serving as Assistant United States Attorneys and federal prosecutors, as well as by defending 1000s of clients facing criminal investigations and prosecutions. Collectively, we have tried more than 200 federal criminal cases, and we use this extensive experience to assist our clients. While we generate a tailored defense for all of our clients based on the facts and circumstances of their individual cases, we employ the follow four principles in all of our cases:
- Early Intervention
- Lack of Evidence
- Lack of Intent
- Applicable Defenses
Early Intervention. From our experience prosecuting and defending hundreds of federal criminal cases, we have observed that the earlier individuals obtain qualified legal counsel, the more likely that they will be to achieve a successful outcome in their cases. People who wait to hire an attorney until after charges are filed against them often suffer for this decision in the outcome of their case. An experienced defense attorney will assist a client throughout the course of a criminal investigation, making strategic decisions about how and when to speak with prosecutors and whether or not to cooperate as a witness in the government’s case. A defense attorney will also handle all communications between a client and the government, minimizing the client’s risk of incriminating himself or drawing unnecessary suspicion on himself.
Lack of Evidence. In all federal criminal cases, the federal prosecutors have the burden of proving – beyond a reasonable doubt – every element of the case against a defendant. At Oberheiden, P.C., we arduously hold the government attorneys to their constitutional burden of proof against our clients. We demonstrate the weaknesses in their factual evidence in order to raise doubt within the minds of jurors. By exposing the government’s failure to produce convincing evidence against our clients, we have achieved the following outcomes:
- Case Dismissed
- Avoidance of Criminal Charges
- Civil Fine, No Criminal Plea
- Misdemeanor, No Felony
- No Jail Time
Lack of Intent. In federal bribery cases, the government must prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the defendant had the requisite criminal intent to commit the crime of which they are charged. Proving intent is one of the most difficult areas of the government’s case, and we routinely exploit this fact by presenting evidence and arguments that demonstrate that our clients did not possess the intent to commit the alleged criminal activity.
Applicable Defenses. Many federal criminal offenses have affirmative defenses that, if proven, will negate the defendant’s criminal liability for the offense. Using our comprehensive knowledge of federal criminal law and federal criminal procedures, we aggressively explore all potential affirmative defenses that our clients may be able to claim to the charges posed against them. Through the use of affirmative defenses, we have helped many clients facing federal criminal charges obtain acquittals.
Oberheiden, P.C. represent public officials, business owners, executives, professionals, lawyers, and other individuals across the country, including across the state of Texas in cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, Tyler, McAllen, Laredo, El Paso, and San Antonio, who find themselves under investigation for bribery or other federal criminal offenses. We have successfully represented clients under investigation by the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service and state and local law enforcement.
Our Federal Criminal Defense Track Record
- Defense of business owner against federal fraud allegations.Result: No civil or criminal liability.
- Defense of client in federal criminal matter involving federal fraud allegations.
- Representation of client in investigation by the Department of Labor resulting in avoidance of governmental audit.Result: No civil or criminal liability.
- Defense against Department of Justice (DOJ) intervention and federal prosecutor’s investigation for client in federal administrative proceeding.Result: No civil or criminal liability.
- Defense of client in federal criminal matter involving manufacturing and distribution of illicit drug allegations.Result: No civil or criminal liability.
- Assistance of client in federal employment matters involving criminal investigations.Result: No civil or criminal liability.
We are available every day of the year. You can call, complete our online contact form, or email us directly.
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys
Dr. Nick Oberheiden, founder of Oberheiden P.C., focuses his litigation practice on white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, SEC & FCPA enforcement, and commercial litigation.