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What is bribery?

There are some misconceptions around what constitutes bribery. A bribe is defined as a "benefit (as money) given, promised, or offered in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust."

Bribery is often associated with public officials. For example, a business owner who pays a government employee, whether in money, gifts or something else of value, to award a lucrative contract to that business could be charged with bribery, as could the person who accepted the payment.

However, bribery can occur in other arenas because the public interest doesn't necessarily have to be impacted. For example, if a company pays an employee of a competing business to help them recruit his or her colleagues, those who are knowingly involved could face bribery charges.

We often hear of bribery in sports. For example, high-stakes gamblers have been known to pay athletes, referees or other officials to cause a particular team to lose. Those found guilty can face fines and as much as five years behind bars.

While there doesn't have to be a written document in place (and often there isn't) of the quid pro quo agreed on, prosecutors need to provide evidence of it. This may be done via wiretaps or video, for example.

It's important to note that bribery is not the same as extortion. Bribery involves a positive reward for the person who does what someone asks. Extortion involves a threat of violence or other negative outcome if the person doesn't comply.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for or has been charged with bribery, it's essential to seek guidance from a Maryland criminal defense attorney who has experience with these cases. The repercussions of a bribery charge, let alone a conviction, to your life, reputation and career can be significant.

Source: FindLaw, "Bribery," accessed Feb. 22, 2018

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