When the common law developed the crime of bribery, it sought to penalize only persons whose actions were designed to improperly influence those identified with the administration of justice.
Later, it was considered bribery for anyone to give or receive anything of value or any valuable service or promise with the intent to influence any public officer in the discharge of a legal duty.
Under modern statutes, bribery tends to be a felony.
The Federal Bribery Statute
Makes it a crime if anyone “directly or indirectly gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official, for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official….”
18 U.S.C.A. § 201(c)(1)(A).
The Federal Bribery Statute
Also makes it a crime if “a public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official, otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty, directly or indirectly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed….”
18 U.S.C.A. § 201(c)(1)(B).
Florida Bribery Statute
“ Bribery” means corruptly to give, offer, or promise to any public servant, or, if a public servant, corruptly to request, solicit, accept, or agree to accept for himself or herself or another, any pecuniary or other benefit with an intent or purpose to influence the performance of any act or omission which the person believes to be, or the public servant represents as being, within the official discretion of a public servant, in violation of a public duty, or in performance of a public duty.
West’s Fla. Stat. Ann. § 838.015(1).
Examples of Bribery
Seen over many forms of conduct including white collar and organized crimes.
Obtaining the release or acquittal of an arrestee
Securing an award of a government contract
Obtaining a favorable vote by a legislator on a pending bill
Variety of materials involved: cash, tangible and intangible objects, even sexual favors.
At common law, perjury came to consist of willfully giving under oath in a judicial proceeding false testimony material to the issue.
Perjury was eventually supplemented by the common-law offense of false swearing, a crime committed when an oath was taken in other than a judicial proceeding.
To convict a defendant of perjury, the prosecution must establish …
that the defendant took an oath to tell the truth and knowingly made a false statement of fact.
that defendant’s statement was “material” (i.e., capable of influencing the tribunal on the issues before it).
Federal Perjury Statute
“ Whoever (1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or (2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury … willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true; is guilty of perjury.”
18 U.S.C.A. § 1621
Perjury by Contradictory Statements
Early American cases followed the common-law principle that a defendant could not be convicted of perjury by contradictory statements unless the prosecution established which one of the statements was false.
Modern statutes make it unnecessary for the prosecution to establish which of two contradictory statements is false.
Subornation of Perjury
At common law, subornation of perjury consisted of instigating or procuring another person to commit perjury.
Statutes now generally define subornation of perjury much as did the common law.
To convict a defendant of the offense, the prosecution must first establish that the defendant induced another to testify falsely and that an actual perjury has been committed.
A defendant who while under oath gives an answer that is “literally accurate, technically responsive, or legally truthful” cannot be convicted of perjury.
Recantation Defense – in the same and continuous court or grand jury proceeding in which a declaration is made, the person making the declaration admits such declaration to be false “if the declaration has not substantially affected the proceeding, or it has not become manifest that such falsity has been or will be exposed.” 19 USCA § 1623(d).
Obstruction of Justice
Crime to commit an act obstructing or intending to obstruct police justice. Any act that prevented, obstructed, impeded or hindered the administration of justice was considered a common law misdemeanor
Obstructing a police officer, tampering with jurors or witnesses, preparing false evidence, and secreting or destroying evidence
Later under statute – escape, resisting arrest
Examples of Obstruction of Justice
Assault on a process server
Endeavoring to influence or impede jurors
Obstructing court orders
Obstructing proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees
Tampering with or retaliating against a witness, victim, informant or juror
Obstructing the passage of mail
Giving false information to a police officer, false alarm of emergency
Impersonating a police officer
Destroying or tampering with public records or physical evidence to be offered in official proceedings
The common law did not permit a person to resist a lawful arrest by an authorized officer of the law.
It did, however, permit a person to use force to resist an unlawful arrest.
Today, most authorities hold that one cannot use physical force to resist an arrest by a police officer, whether such arrest is legal or illegal.
Compounding a Crime
Accepting money or something of value in exchange for agreeing not to prosecute
Misprision of felony – seeing someone commit a felony and used no means to prevent the felony or apprehend the felon (any attempt to conceal a crime)
Accepting anything of value in exchange for agreeing not to report a crime
Some states make it a crime to compound only felonies; other states make it a crime to compound any offense (New Hampshire)
Common Law has 3 offenses relating to escape
Escape, Prison Break, and Rescue
Federal statues are generally broad to encompass all three forms
State statutes consider escape as the following: “if he escapes from custody when he is: 1) under arrest for, charged with, or convicted of an offense; or 2) in custody pursuant to a lawful court order – then guilty of escape”
Is There Ever a Right to Escape?
In United States v. Bailey (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the defense of necessity as being valid in the context of the crime of escape.
To sustain the defense, the Court said a prisoner must demonstrate
that because of an imminent threat of harm, escape was the prisoner’s only reasonable alternative; and
that the prisoner made a bona fide effort to surrender or return to custody as soon as the duress or necessity lost its coercive force.
Contempt of Court
Civil contempt is not a crime; sanctions imposed to force compliance of a court order (indefinite confinement).
Example: anti-abortion group members committing criminal trespassing
Criminal contempt imposed to punish an offender whose deliberate conduct is calculated to obstruct or embarrass the court or to degrade a judicial officer.
Common law established the concept of criminal contempt to enable judges to maintain the dignity and authority of the courts and the respect the officers.
Direct and Indirect Contempt
Direct – behavior committed in the presence of the court or so close to the court as to interrupt or hinder the judicial proceeding; no trial or plea required
Indirect (constructive) – committed outside the presence of the court that degrade the court or hinder the proceedings of the court