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California Penal Code 85 86 pc Bribery by or of Legislators and Elected Officials

July 8, 2021 California Penal Code

The California statute that makes it a crime for an individual to bribe a legislator or to use corrupt means to influence a legislator is Penal Code 85 PC.  The term “legislator” includes state and city legislators or those on county boards.  Violations of this law are charged as felony offenses.

Under Penal Code 86 PC, it is unlawful for a legislator or elected official receiving or requesting a bribe.


Some Examples of illegal bribery transactions include

  • giving a legislator $10,000 for a “yes” vote on a specific matter.
  • blackmailing a legislator to secure his or her favor on a position.
  • funding a legislator’s vacation in exchange for his or her support on a piece of legislation.


Strong Legal Defenses to a 85 PC Bribery Charge

Defendants facing bribery charges under this statute and their attorneys can raise a legal defense to challenge the charges. Three common defenses are:

  1. the accused did not act with a criminal intent,
  2. the defendant did not exhibit corrupt means, and/or
  3. the entrapment defense.

The Penalties for this felony offense are custody in state prison for up to four years, or felony (aka formal) probation.


The California criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group will teach the following in this article:

  1. When is it a criminal act to bribe a legislator?
  2. What are the best defenses to combat charges under Penal Code 85 PC?
  3. What penalties are connected to conviction on 85 PC charges?
  4. Can a person get a 85 PC conviction expunged?
  5. What offenses are related to 85 PC?


  1. When is it a criminal act to bribe a legislator?

The District Attorney is obligated to prove that the defendant gave or offered a bribe to a legislator, and the defendant acted with the corrupt intent to unlawfully influence that legislator to act, decision, or vote a certain way to successfully convict a person of bribing a legislator.

Defining Terminology

Under this law, a person acts with “corrupt intent” when he or she acts to wrongfully get a financial or other advantage for himself, herself, or someone else.

California PC 85 also makes it a crime for someone to try to corruptly influence a legislator. A prosecutor must prove these elements to convict someone of this offense:

  1. the defendant attempted to influence a legislator in his or her vote,
  2. he or she did so by corrupt means, as in menace or deceit, and
  3. the accused acted with a clear intention to corruptly influence.

The term “legislator” covers state legislators, members of city or county legislative bodies, and members of school district legislative bodies.


  1. What are the best defenses to combat charges under Penal Code 85 PC?

Our criminal defense lawyers draw upon a number of strong legal strategies to assist clients in defending bribery charges.

The “No criminal intent” defense

Recall that an individual is only guilty of a bribery charge if he or she acted with either:

  1. a clear corrupt intent, or
  2. an intent to corruptly influence the legislator in question.

Therefore, a strong defense is for an accused to say that he or she did not act in any such manner.


The “No corrupt means” defense

Remember additionally that a defendant is only guilty of attempting to corruptly influence a legislator if he or she engaged in some form of corrupt means. It is a defense, then, for an accused to demonstrate that he or she did not engage in this type of behavior.


The “Entrapment” defense

Entrapment is a legal defense in which a person says they only committed a crime because law enforcement lured him or her into doing so. This defense is effective provided that the accused shows that he or she only committed the crime due to the entrapment.


  1. What penalties are connected to conviction on 85 PC charges?

A violation of this statute is charged as a felony offense in California. Therefore, penalties include imprisonment in state prison for up to four years or felony probation.


  1. Can a person get a 85 PC conviction expunged?

An individual who has been convicted of bribing a legislator can only get an expungement if he or she gets probation in lieu of prison time and completes it successfully.  In California, people cannot get crimes expunged if it results in a prison term.


  1. What offenses are related to 85 PC?

Three crimes are related to this offense.

  1. PC 67 and 68 – the bribery by or of executive officers statute,
  2. PC 92 and 93 – the bribery by or of judges and jurors statute, and
  3. PC 137 and 138 – the bribery by or of witnesses statute.


Call Spodek Law Group for more advice. We offer free, confidential consultations.




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