Anyone in Los Angeles who occupies a position that involves the exercise of governmental, executive or professional authority will almost certainly see their actions scrutinized. Exchanges of any types of benefits involving such individuals can quickly escalate to accusations of bribery.

Yet does this mean that a person in any of the aforementioned positions can never receive any sort of gift or benefit? That question may be difficult to answer, but a closer examination of California state law offers some clarity.

Defining a bribe

Section 641.3 of the California Penal Code states that bribery occurs when an employee that accepts money or something else of value without the consent or knowledge of their employer in exchange for the bestowal of a benefit. This explanation seems fairly cut-and-dry, yet as is the case with most criminal matters, complexities abound when it comes to proving bribery.

Most people would classify a gift as an item given by one person to another with no expectation of compensation in return. Still, an official in any sort of position should exercise caution and care when receiving anything given in regards to the capacity of their public or professional office.

Properly reporting gifts

Fortunately, guidelines exist related to the receipt of gifts that same may perceive as bribes (and what the person receiving them should do to avoid potential accusations of misconduct). Per the Institute for Local Government, these include:

  • Reporting gifts of $50 or more through the appropriate channels
  • Not receiving more than $440 worth of gifts from a single source in a calendar year
  • Disqualifying themselves from any decision-making processes involving parties that have gifted them large amounts

There are exceptions to these rules. Birthday gifts, gifts for recognition, and any gifts for which the giver receives compensation (either in full or in part) fall into this category.