Bribery Of Public Officials And Witnesses 18 USC Section 201

Bribery Of Public Officials And Witnesses 18 USC Section 201

Bribery is a big problem. It hurts our communities. It makes people lose trust in the government. Section 201 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code talks all about bribery of public officials and witnesses. Let’s break it down so regular folks can understand it.

What is Bribery?

Bribery is when someone gives or offers something valuable to a public official or witness. They do this to influence the person’s official actions or testimony. The person offering the bribe is trying to get the official or witness to do something dishonest or illegal.

For example, if a company pays off a politician to get a lucrative government contract, that’s bribery. Or if someone pays a witness to lie on the stand, that’s bribery too.

Real World Examples

Bribery happens more often than you’d think. Here are some real cases to show what bribery can look like:

  • A lobbyist gave box seats, Rolex watches, and other swag to members of Congress to influence legislation. He got 30 months in the pen. Some of the Congress folks went to jail too.
  • Executives at a tech company paid off foreign officials to get big government contracts. The company ended up paying over $800 million in fines!
  • A drug trafficker paid off a federal agent to erase records about him as a confidential informant. Both got locked up for bribery.
  • A man offered a witness $50,000 to change his testimony in a federal trial. He got 46 months behind bars for trying to bribe the witness.


There are some defenses people can try if accused of bribery:

  • Duress – They can argue they were forced to offer the bribe against their will. This is hard to prove though.
  • Entrapment – This means law enforcement pressured them into committing bribery. But it doesn’t count if they were already open to bribing before officials got involved.
  • Intoxication – Being drunk or high could negate intent to bribe. But they’d have to be really impaired for this to work.
  • Lack of intent – If there’s proof they didn’t mean to influence an official or witness, this defense could fly. But merely giving gifts can show intent.
  • Lack of quid pro quo – Without clear evidence of a quid pro quo (this for that), bribery charges may fail. But there can still be intent without an explicit agreement.