Bribery Charges: What Are My Rights?

Bribery charges

This year, 14 employees of the Detroit Public School system have been implicated in allegations of bribery. After an audit from 2014 raised some red flags about former principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp she was indicted and plead guilty to bribery, agreeing to cooperate with the government in its prosecution against the others.

Snapp admitted to pocketing $58,050 in bribes from a vendor – Norman Shy of Franklin – who is accused of paying $908,000 in kickbacks and bribes to at least 12 DPS principals to use him as a vendor in exchange for money in a scam that ultimately cost the district $2.7 million, and no supplies were ever delivered.

The sad part is, Snapp, and others were also doing good work for the schools. She is facing up to 46 months in prison for accepting a bribe.

What Constitutes Bribery?

Michigan law prohibits bribery of a public officer – the offering or giving of something of value in order to influence the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public legal duties.  However, it also prohibits the receiving or soliciting of the same. Both parties in bribery charges – the giver and receiver – can be prosecuted.

Both Snapp and Shy have been accused and, though he did the bribing and not a public official, Shy may also be sentenced to fines or a prison term or both.

The difference between a bribe and a private demonstration of goodwill – as we often see in political campaigns – is the expectation of a specific and voluntary action in exchange for the gift. Shy didn’t offer the money as a way of saying he appreciated Snapp’s work; he expected to receive the job as vendor and payment from the government. Even without the scheme to receive pay without delivering goods, this alleged bribe would have been illegal.

A bribe can be cash, personal favors, promise of later payment or anything else the recipient might value. There does not have to be a written agreement to prove bribery has taken place, but prosecutors must show corrupt intent. Bribery can happen between private individuals but it is when public officials accept bribes that they are creating a conflict of interest: they can’t accommodate the interests of the briber and the people they have been elected or hired to serve.

Penalties for a Bribery Conviction

The penalty for a conviction is serious – you could be looking at consequences to your freedom, finances and permanent criminal record. It could keep you from getting a job. If you think you may be investigated for bribery, it is a good idea to seek the aid of a defense attorney as soon as possible.

The offense of bribery of a public officer is a felony, as is the offense of a public officer accepting a bribe. The maximum sentence for accepting a bribe is a 10 year prison sentence or a fine of up to $5,000.

Here’s a list of public officials who may not receive a bribe:

  • Appraisers
  • Receivers
  • Trustees
  • Administrators
  • Executors
  • Commissioners
  • Auditors
  • Arbitrators
  • Referees

The maximum penalty for this felony – bribery – is 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the offense is committed during a criminal trial for an offense punishable by ten or more years of prison time, the maximum penalty increases to 10 years in prison and fines of $20,000.

The prosecutor’s case against you will depend upon usable and convincing evidence against you. Your lawyer will work to get any possible exclusion of evidence the prosecution has against you by making sure your rights were upheld in any searches or statements that were made of your property or by you during questioning.

Take Away

It’s important to get an experienced defense attorney on your side as early as possible to make sure your rights are being upheld. If you are facing charges of bribery, contact me today.

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