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Understanding bribery and extortion

There has been a lot of talk about quid pro quos, bribery and extortion in the news lately. The latter two terms are the ones that people (government and public officials as well as others) are more likely to find themselves hearing in court. Let's take a look at those.

What is bribery?

Under the law, it's either the offer or acceptance of something that has value (such as money, property, favors or services) in exchange for actions that are beneficial to the person offering it. We often hear about bribery charges when the thing of value sought involves the exertion of political influence. However, it can occur in many other scenarios -- for example, in the business world and sports.

Both the person accused of offering the bribe and the one who allegedly accepted it can face bribery charges. There doesn't need to be a written agreement between the parties for them to be charged with bribery. However, prosecutors do have to prove that there was an agreement of some sort.

This proof may involve a recorded phone call or surveillance -- either by law enforcement or with the help of a cooperating witness wearing a wire. For employees of the federal government to be charged, specific elements need to be present. However, people in the private sector can also face these charges.

What is extortion?

Extortion is often confused with bribery. However, they're very different things. Bribery involves offering something of value in exchange for an action or compliance. Extortion involves a threat if the other party doesn't take a specific action or comply with what the person extorting them wants. This threat may involve violence or any type of negative act.

If the threatened negative act involves disclosing damaging or embarrassing information, it's considered blackmail. Blackmail is a type of extortion.

Sometimes people who are charged with bribery or extortion don't see their actions as illegal. They may just think they're exchanging favors with someone. The other person (and the law) may not see it that way. If you find yourself facing bribery or extortion charges, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance.

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Attorney David L. Zerbe

The Zerbe Firm
15 West Center Street
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

Phone: 812-270-9999
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