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Commercial Bribery

Penal Code 641.3 PC - Commercial Bribery in California

California Penal Code 641.3 PC is the law that prohibits commercial bribery, which is described as when an employee takes a bribe exceeding $250 in exchange for using their position to benefit another person.  

When people hear “commercial bribery,” they often think about kickbacks to secure government contracts. However, it also includes situations where a company employee accepts a bribe to leverage their current position to benefit the person bribing them.

Penal Code 641.3 PC - Commercial Bribery in California
PC 641.3 makes it a crime to take a bribe in exchange for using your position to benefit someone.

Penal Code 641.3 PC says, “(a) Any employee who solicits, accepts or agrees to accept money or anything of value from a person other than their employer, other than in trust for the employer, corruptly and without the knowledge or consent of the employer, in return for using or agreeing to use their position for the benefit of that other person, and any person who offers or gives an employee money or anything of value under those circumstances, is guilty of commercial bribery.

(b) This section does not apply where the amount of money or monetary worth of the thing of value is two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or less.

(c) Commercial bribery is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year if the amount of the bribe is $1,000 or less or by imprisonment in the county jail or the state prison for 16 months or two or three years if the amount of the bribe exceeds $1,000. (d) For purposes of this section:

(1) Employee means an officer, director, agent, trustee, partner, or employee.

(2) Employer means a corporation, association, organization, trust, partnership, or sole proprietorship.

(3) Corruptly means that the person specifically intends to injure or defraud (A) their employer, (B) the employer of the person to whom they offer, gives, or agrees to give the money or a thing of value, (C) the employer of the person from whom they request, receives, or agrees to receive the money or a thing of value, or (D) a competitor of any such employer.

Commercial Bribery Quick Facts

Let's review some essential quick facts about the crime of commercial bribery under Penal Code 641.3 PC, such as the following:

  • This law does not apply where the amount of money is $250 or less.
  • The term “corruptly” means intent to injure their employer.
  • Commercial bribery occurs when an employee solicits or agrees to accept anything of value over $250 in exchange for using their position.
  • The “exchange” must be for the benefit of the person giving the bribe.
  • A typical example is when someone offers an employee a bribe for inside information on a new product or access to private information.
  • If you accept the offer and the bribe, you violated Penal Code 641.3.
  • An “employer” is any corporation, association, organization, trust, partnership, sole proprietorship, etc.
  • An “employee” is any officer, director, agent, trustee, partner, etc.
  • This law applies to both the giver and the recipient of the bribe, meaning if a fix is offered and accepted, both people can be charged with a crime.

What Are the Elements of the Crime?

To convict you for violating PC 641.3, the prosecutor must prove several crucial factors, which are called the “elements of the crime,” such as the following:

  • You were an employee working for the company;
  • You solicited or accepted a bribe with a $250 value or more;
  • The bribe was from someone other than your employer;
  • You accepted the bribe with corrupt intent, meaning there was an intent to defraud or harm the employer or a competitor; and
  • You used your position to the other person's advantage in exchange; or
  • You offered someone a bribe under the above-listed conditions.

What Are the Related Laws?

Several California laws are related to Penal Code 641.3 PC commercial bribery, including the following:

  • Penal Code 137 and 138 PC – bribery of a witness;
  • Penal Code 85 and 86 PC – bribery by or of legislators;
  • Penal Code 67 and 68 PC – bribery of executive officer;
  • Penal Code 92 and 93 PC – bribery of judges and jurors;
  • Penal Code 165 PC - bribery of county supervisors.

What Are the Penalties?

PC 641.3 violations are wobblers charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value amount. The penalties include the following:

  • If the value is under $1000, it's a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • If the value exceeds $1000, it's a felony, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $10k fine.

What Are the Legal Defenses?

If you are charged with violating PC 641.3, prosecutors must prove each element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt, or you will likely avoid a conviction.

Defenses for Commercial Bribery
Contact our law firm for a free case review.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to challenge one or more of the abovementioned crucial factors.

Maybe we can argue that the value of the bribe was under $250. Recall from above that regardless of guilt or innocence, if the amount was less than $2550, this law does not apply, but you could face consequences.

Maybe we can argue that there was no corrupt intent. Perhaps we can show that your act was not intended to harm or defraud the company or its competitors.

Maybe we can argue that you had your employer's knowledge and consent. Maybe your employer was aware of the offer and approved it. Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or convince them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place (DA reject).

Contact us for a free case evaluation via phone or the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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