In the state of California, it is a felony offense to attempt to bribe a judge, juror, or any other judicial officer. It is also a felony for jurors or judicial officials to accept bribes. Both are serious charges with harsh penalties, including up to four years in state prison if convicted.
California Penal Code 92 PC says: “anyone who gives or offers a bribe to any judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, or anyone who may be authorized by law to hear or determine any question, with intent to influence their vote, opinion, or decision upon any matter or question which is or may be brought before him for decision, is punishable by up to four years in prison.”
A closely related law is California Penal Code 93 PC, which says: “every judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, that asks, receives, or agrees to receive any bribe to influence their vote or decision, will be imprisonment for up to four years, and in cases where no bribe was received, by a restitution fine up to $10,000.”
Another related crime includes bribery of a witness under Penal Code 137 and 138 PC, which prohibit bribery by and of witnesses a crime. Penal Code 67 and 68 PC make it a crime for someone to bribe any executive officers and for them to ask for a bribe.
In this article by our California criminal defense lawyers, we will examine these laws in more detail below.
What the Law Says Regarding Bribing Judges and Jurors
The crime of bribery is defined as offering, promising, or giving money, favors, or other items of value to influence the actions of another person. In the context of judicial bribery, the attempt is to influence a judge or juror to obtain a favorable outcome in a legal proceeding.
As noted, the crime of bribing a judicial officer and a judicial officer accepting a bribe is codified in California Penal Code 92 PC and 93 PC, respectively. Let's look at both laws separately.
Penal Code 92 PC: This law makes it a crime to bribe "any judicial officer, juror, referee, arbitrator, or umpire, or to any person who may be authorized by law to hear or determine any question or controversy."
If you're charged with this crime, prosecutors must demonstrate two material facts to obtain a conviction:
- You gave (or offered to give) something of value to a judicial officer; and
- Your gift was given with corrupt intent to influence that person's decision, vote, or determination regarding a legal or official matter.
Penal Code 93 PC: This law makes it a crime for a judicial officer, arbitrator, referee, umpire, or juror to accept or accept any bribe.
It is likewise a crime for the officer to solicit (i.e., request) a bribe. To prove this crime in court, prosecutors must demonstrate that you:
- Were a judicial officer in California;
- You asked for, accepted, or agreed to accept a bribe; and
- You represented and intended that the illegal bribe would influence your opinion, decision, or execution of your duty as a juror, judge, arbiter, etc.
The act of giving/offering a bribe to a judicial officer and the act of the officer requesting/receiving a bribe are both felony offenses. You could face two, three, or four years in a California state prison if convicted of either of these crimes.
What Are Some Examples of This Crime?
- A defendant facing a DUI charge offers the judge $5,000 to find him not guilty;
- A plaintiff in a civil trial pulls a juror aside and offers money to vote in his favor;
- A juror sneaks a note to the defendant indicating their vote is for sale;
- A defense attorney offers a judge to let him use his timeshare in return for a favorable decision for his client at trial.
What Are the Related Offenses?
There are several other crimes similar to bribing a juror/judge and a judge/juror receiving a bribe. These include:
- Witness tampering/bribery (PC 137): attempting to bribe, influence, intimidate, or threaten a witness to testify in a certain manner;
- Bribery by a witness (PC 138): when a witness requests or receives a bribe in exchange for testifying (or not) in a particular manner;
- Bribery of an executive officer (PC 67): any attempt to bribe an executive officer (i.e., police officer or district attorney) to corrupt the execution of their duties;
- Bribery by an executive officer (PC 67): when an executive officer requests or receives a bribe for the corrupt execution of their duties.
What Are the Common Defenses for Bribing a Juror or Judge?
Several legal defenses can combat charges of bribing or attempting to bribe a judge or juror. These are discussed below.
Perhaps you did not act with corrupt intent. In other words, you did not give the gift/payment to influence the person's opinion or decision, or the transaction was misconstrued as a bribe.
Perhaps the alleged bribe was not given in exchange for a favorable outcome. If there was no "quid pro quo" (i.e., this for that), then there is no crime.
Perhaps you are the victim of police entrapment. If law enforcement lured or coaxed you into offering a bribe, you otherwise would not have offered to entrap you in a crime; this invalidates your charges.
Likewise, those accused of accepting/requesting a bribe as a juror or judicial officer may successfully use the defenses discussed below:
Perhaps you did not act with corrupt intent. In other words, you did not solicit the gift or payment to be influenced by your opinion or decision, or the transaction was misconstrued as a bribe. Perhaps the gift did not affect your decision.
Maybe you were not engaged in an official/legal matter when the bribe was requested/accepted. Again, maybe you are the victim of entrapment. You would not have accepted if law enforcement lured or coaxed you into requesting or receiving a bribe. Otherwise, your charges are invalid.
Contact our office to review the details and discuss the legal options if you need more information or legal representation. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, and you can reach us by phone or using the contact form.