The court system in the United States relies on witnesses and other people giving testimony to be honest. Due to the importance of honesty in the courtroom, bribery of or by a trial witness is a very serious crime and is considered a felony under California Penal Code Sections 137 pc and 138 pc.
Definition of a Bribe
The Penal Code in California does not have a very specific definition for bribery. Generally speaking, when it comes to a witness in a trial, it is considered a bribe if a witness is offered or accepts a sum of money or other consideration in exchange for either not testifying or giving a fraudulent account of a situation. Someone can be convicted of bribery if they offer a bribe to a witness or if a witness chooses to accept a bribe.
Penal Code 137a makes it a felony under the law if someone tries to give a witness, or promises to give a witness something in the future, in exchange for not testifying or lying under oath for the benefit of another party. This law also makes it illegal for someone to try and blackmail or threaten a witness.
Penal Code 138b deals with whether or not a witness accepts a bribe. A witness can be in violation of the law if they were to accept a gift or something else of value in exchange for not testifying or giving a fraudulent account under oath.
Defenses of Bribery
If someone is charged with bribery, there are a number of different ways they can go about defending their case. One of the main forms of defense is to prove that their was a lack of intent to be corrupt. There is always a chance that a witness did not realize they were being bribed when they accepted a gift. If the giver is not clear about the bribe, this could end up being a good defense strategy.
Another common defense strategy for bribery is to state that the individual was being coerced, entrapped, or threatened. In these situations a witness may be able to prove that they were not able to act fairly in accordance with the law out of fear. A witness may also be able to get out of the crime if they can prove that they accepted with bribe when they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Furthermore, if any evidence of the crime was obtained in a matter that violated the civil rights of the defendant, the charges can be dropped entirely.
Penalties for Bribery
Bribery is considered a very serious crime under California Penal Code Sections 137 pc and 138 pc. Those that are convicted of it are often given jail time, which can be as long as four years in length. The amount of time that you will spend in jail, and other punishments that you receive, will depend on the seriousness of your testimony, whether it had a material impact on the case, and whether you have a clean background prior to the charges.
Beyond imprisonment, there are other common penalties for bribery. Those that are charged will often be charged with a significant financial penalty, may have to do community service, and will likely be on probation for years to come. There is also a chance of facing further civil charges outside of the criminal court system.
Due to the seriousness of being charged with a violation of California Penal Code Sections 137 pc and 138 pc, hiring legal support is a good option. A skilled defense attorney will be able to work with you to build and present a case that will minimize your potential penalties.