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What to do when you are accused of bribery

Bribery is a serious offense and a felony under state and federal law. Bribery accusations can result from either accepting a bribe, attempting to bribe someone or, in some jurisdictions, even contemplating offering a bribe.

The crime of bribery encircles a broad scope of illegal conduct. It may include bribes of cash, assets, services, favors or anything of value. Bribes may occur directly or indirectly through third parties to hide the true nature.

Regardless of your role in alleged bribery, you are risking prison time and significant monetary fines.

Individuals accused of bribery are frequently confused about the nature of the crime. While bribery statutes are worded differently in various jurisdictions, the primary component is intent. To be convicted of bribery, the accused must have meant for the advantage bestowed to have a substantial effect, leading the recipient to take action — or not take action.

Even if you have acted improperly, there is the possibility that the behavior does not amount to bribery under the law. To bypass confusion, focus on the specifics of the transaction.


Do

Do get a lawyer

Seek a qualified attorney with experiencing in defending bribery accusations immediately when you first learn of the charge. Too many businessmen think that they can handle the accusation on their own. This is a big mistake that could come back to bite you further down the road. Proving bribery is frequently difficult for prosecutors. The prosecutor has the responsibility of showing that a bribe was offered, accepted, solicited or paid. An experienced attorney will know what needs to be proven in your specific case and how to defend your actions against the allegations.

Do gather documentation

Starting with the information you know, gather documentation. Prepare to answer the four Ws: Who, What, When and Where. This isn’t the time for relying on what you think you remember.

Do gather witnesses

Frequently, in bribery cases, a great deal of credibility is given to the testimony of witnesses, or parties, to the alleged crime. Who among your acquaintances, business associates, family and friends can provide additional information or perspectives on the transaction to help beat the accusation? Is your accuser claiming there was someone with you when the alleged bribe was offered/accepted? Find that person and get their version of events documented right away through an affidavit.

Do designate a spokesperson

Select one person to speak for you. An initial statement should be issued by you, or you and your attorney. Identify someone who will be the voice of your company and can speak with authority and consistency in answering any media questions. While you want to say as little as possible about the specifics of the case, you do want to speak with a single voice in any public statements.

Do own the issue

Don’t run from the issue. Be proactive in your defense. If you find yourself in a reactive stance, then the accuser owns the agenda and can set the pace. It’s vital for you to own the issue as early in the process as possible.


Don't

Do not try to handle the case yourself

Even if you are not guilty, there are many paths the prosecution can take. An experienced attorney is vital to helping you anticipate, understand and effectively counter whatever path(s) the prosecution elects.

Do not get stressed

Yes, being accused of a serious offense like bribery is a stressful event, but remain quiet. You need to keep a calm head so that you are in the best condition to assist your attorney in planning your defense.

Do not offer information in the media

Answer only the inquiries asked of you and shut-up. Frequently, the stress of allegations makes an individual anxious to clear their name publically and get the unpleasantness as far away as possible. This often leads to a misguided effort to be helpful to the media. Nothing you say in the media does anything to help your legal defense. The best way to clear your name is to focus on your legal defense, to have the charges dropped or to win a not guilty verdict.

Do not speak to law enforcement without your attorney

The advice to refrain from speaking also applies to any interaction you have with law enforcement. Do not speak to investigators, detectives or anyone else with law enforcement without your attorney present.


Summary
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Bribery is a serious charge. Defending yourself against bribery requires the assistance of a qualified attorney, even if you believe you have done nothing wrong. Working together with your attorney you can take immediate and important steps, like gathering documentation and witnesses, that will help you make your case for acquittal.


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Photo Credits: Courtroom One Gavel by Joe Gratz via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Nick Wooldridge, EsqCriminal Defense Attorney

In a system where the power vested in the prosecution and the associated law enforcement agencies can seem terribly daunting to the ordinary man on the street, obtaining justice and having a fair trial may not be as easy as it should be. Getting...

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