Bribery is a criminal offense that often relates to public figures and state workers. People hear stories about individuals offering police officers money or personal favors to get out of tickets. Some people may even imply that health inspectors and other authority figures may accept financial compensation when performing the services inherent in their profession.
There is an assumption that those accused of bribery either faced legal challenges or worked as a state employee. However, those who work at for-profit, privately-held California businesses might also end up accused of bribery. There is a special California statute that criminalizes bribery in the private sector.
What is commercial bribery?
When a private sector employee intentionally solicits money or items of value from someone without the knowledge of their employer, their conduct could violate the commercial bribery statute. People in many positions, including corporate buyers, personal assistants and executives, could manipulate the actions of a business for personal gain in response to receiving a bribe. Typically, the situation must involve secrecy and the misuse of one’s employment for the other party offering the bribe.
Any attempt by an employee to use their position for the benefit of another party offering money or valuable items could violate state laws. A conviction for a commercial bribery offense could lead to up to a year in County Jail if the value of the items involved is $1,000 or less. When bribes exceed $1,000, individuals are at risk of either County jail or state prison. The duration of their incarceration could last anywhere from 16 months to 3 years depending on the situation.
For the commercial bribery statute to apply, the amount of money transferred or the value of the item gifted as a bribe must exceed $250. A host at a restaurant who accepts a $50 bill to move someone up the reservation list for a table likely wouldn’t face criminal charges for commercial bribery even if other patrons capture the entire incident on video.
Learning more about the unique white-collar criminal statutes in California can help professionals in a variety of different careers protect themselves against bribery allegations that could lead to jail time and career setbacks.