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Public Corruption

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 1107-1156
Nicholas Jarcho; Neal Shechter
Date Published
50 pages
This article identifies and explains provisions of and issues related to Federal statutes that define and punish acts of corruption involving public officials.
The article focuses first on Federal statutes intended to counter bribery and illegal gratuity that enriches public officials. In 1962, Congress enacted a package of conflict-of-interest legislation that significantly revised the Federal bribery statute. These revisions laid the foundation for "an intricate web of regulations . . . governing the acceptance of gifts and other self-enriching actions by public officials." This article first explains the four elements of the bribery and illegal gratuity offenses, and then considers potential defenses and sanctions. Section 201 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code pertains to the offenses of bribery and illegal gratuity. Relevant definitions are presented in section 201(a), and section 201(b) specifies the elements of bribery. Elements of the illegal gratuity offense are presented in section 201(c). The critical distinction between bribery and illegal gratuity is that the former requires proof of intent and the latter does not. The details of these offenses are discussed. The article also reviews commonly used, but rarely successful, defenses to bribery or illegal gratuity charges under section 201. Defenses discussed include entrapment, due process, and duress or coercion. The discussion of penalties for bribery and the reception of illegal gratuities note that penalties for bribery, which necessarily requires criminal intent, are significantly greater than penalties for illegal gratuities. Another part of the article addresses criminal conflict of interest. The focus is on sections 203-209 of 18 U.S.C., with attention to the elements of, defenses to, and penalties for this type of public corruption. The article concludes with a review of the honest-services doctrine. This pertains to the right of the public to receive honest services from both public and private parties. 421 notes


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