Bribery: A More Serious Crime Than You Think in Oklahoma
Influence. We feel its impact every day. A celebrity appears in the latest gear and we all want the same. A person we admire may have influence over how we dress, the makeup we wear, the books we read.
But there is a world of difference between influence and bribery. Both are attempts to influence, but bribery is illegal.
Bribery in Oklahoma is defined as goods, money, actions, property, or anything else of value that is given or promised — and which is accepted — with the intent to unlawfully influence a person’s vote, action, or opinion on a private or public matter. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 97.)
Unlawfully influencing another person’s behavior is a serious crime in Tulsa.
Bribery and corruption laws prohibit the buying of influence with public officials and other decision makers.
Bribery can occur directly or indirectly and covers the transfer of money, services, favors, and the like in exchange for the desired outcome. This is the classic saying, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”
The crime is one of intent. The transfer of cash or other assets must occur with the intent to influence the decision maker’s decision to act or refrain from acting in a particular manner in his or her official duties.
Intent is often difficult to prove. If there is no intent to influence, a gift is just a gift and the transaction is not illegal. However, prosecutors are adept at using circumstantial evidence to convince a judge or jury regarding the presence of intent.
A prosecutor must prove all of the following elements in order to secure a conviction.
- Offering, giving, promising, or accepting,
- money, goods, property, or other valuable thing,
- to/by a public official or other public officer,
- with knowledge of his or her public position and
- the intent to influence his or her official action, vote, or decision.
(See OUJI-CR 3-5.)
The crime is the offer itself, made with the intent to influence. You may be convicted even if the bribe is not accepted.
Unlawful influence can occur in a number of different settings. Thus, Oklahoma has different statutes covering bribery and corruption in a number of scenarios. The elements of the crime are similar across statutes, but because some of these situations are more serious than others, penalties differ greatly.
Bribery of a Public Official
In Oklahoma, bribery of a public official is defined as:
- the corrupt giving, offer, promise of a gift, gratuity, or the like
- made to an official or other public officer
- with the intent to influence that person’s actions, vote, opinion, decision, or judgment on a matter, question, or proceeding
- that has been or could be brought before that person.
The crime is a felony in Oklahoma and is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 381.)
It is especially prohibited to bribe a legislator, judicial officer, or juror.
Such bribery of an executive officer is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. (See Okla. Stat. 21 § 265.)
Receiving a bribe is a felony in Oklahoma. This offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
If convicted, a public official forfeits his or her position and is then barred from holding any other public office. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 266.)
Bribing an athlete, participant, coach, referee, or any other athletic official is also a felony punishable by up to a year in the county jail (or five years in prison), a fine of up to $3,000, or both. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 399.)
If you are being charged with bribery, it is important to hire and work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to build a strong defense.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Criminal Law Defense Attorney
The Wirth Law Office is here to help when you need it most. We offer a free consultation with an experienced Tulsa criminal law attorney to help you defend your legal rights.
Call 918-879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.