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What is Bribery?

Updated on December 28, 2009

Bribery, in law, an attempt to influence a person in the performance of his public duty through the payment of money or anything else of value. A person who asks for or receives a bribe is considered equally guilty with the person who offers it. Also, a public official is as guilty for accepting a bribe to perform his duty as he is for taking it to act improperly. Bribery is considered to have taken place even if no money has been transferred, and it may involve anything of value, such as property or position.

In early English common law bribery was a misdemeanor, or lesser crime, for which only judicial officers could be punished. In the United States bribery is a felony, or major crime, in many jurisdictions and applies to all public officials.

Many states also forbid bribery of witnesses, voters, athletes, and representatives of a labor union, business or political candidates.

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