Bribes and Corruption in Texas
When most people think about cases of criminal corruption, they may imagine money changing hands in secret or cash being paid to influence important decisions. Under Texas state law, using bribery or corruption to change the outcome of decisions is a major criminal offense, punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Although these two criminal offenses are somewhat similar and sometimes occur together, they are distinct classes of crimes. They can each be applied separately and they have unique definitions. Taking a close look at both of these criminal offenses can help to demonstrate their differences and similarities.
What Is Bribery?
Simply put, bribery is the act of giving something of value to a public or elected official in an attempt to influence or change their decisions. The image that most people have of cash being passed to an official in an envelope is actually a reality in some cases. However, this is not the only way that bribery can occur.
Officials can also be bribed with:
- Gifts or donations
- The promise of future contracts or dividends
- Vacations, meals or vehicles
- The promise of political favor or consideration
In Texas, bribery laws can be applied to any case involving the gift of a “benefit” to a public or elected official in order to receive some special consideration. According to Chapter 36 of the Texas Penal Code, it is a criminal offense to give, offer, receive or ask for special benefits in the context of elected of public office.
A conviction for this offense is a felony of the second degree, punishable by:
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Loss of eligibility to hold public office
What Is Corruption?
Corruption is a broader term that is used to refer to illegal actions committed by public or elected officials. Specifically, corruption is the misuse of power or influence by a public or elected official. Although bribery can sometimes be involved in cases of corruption, corruption can occur without bribery.
For example, imagine that Tom is the mayor of a small town. Heavy storms cause huge, dangerous floods throughout the town. As the mayor, Tom is expected to make an official response to the damage. As a result, Tom asks the state and federal government for disaster relief funds. He also starts a campaign within the town to raise money for the flood victims and damage.
After several months, all of the money is gone but repairs are still not completed. After an investigation, it is discovered that a great deal of the money went missing and Tom is responsible. Tom may face charges of corruption.
Corruption can occur when:
- Public officials misuse funds
- Officials conspire to vote in a way that will benefit them
- Officials create laws that will net them a personal gain
Corruption can include a broad category of criminal offenses. A typical corruption case may involve:
- Extortion or blackmail
Any type of behavior that causes a public official to betray the public trust in order to get personal benefits may be considered corruption. A conviction for a corruption offense can lead to prison time, steep fines, loss of public office and the loss of the ability to hold public office in the future. In many corruption cases, an official convicted of criminal activity may face public shame, making them unable to purse work in their chosen career field.
Attorneys can provide more detailed information about bribery and corruption laws in the state of Texas. If a person is facing charges of bribery or corruption, consulting with an attorney is a good way to make a legal defense strategy.
If you have been charged with bribery, fraud, or embezzlement, it’s vital that you retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Matthew Sharp is an aggressive, experienced lawyer that can help protect your rights. Contact his office at (713) 868-6100 or email him at email@example.com.