We see it all the time in the movies. A high ranking official in a company offers another person of equal fame some money in exchange for keeping quiet about something diabolical. Other times, the official will ask the person if he thinks “Benjamin Franklin” likes a certain transaction (as he slips $100 to him in the hopes of bribing him).
Although these scenarios are usually a bit exaggerated, commercial bribery occurs far more frequently than you might think. It is important to understand what it is and what can happen to you if you are found guilty of it.
What is Commercial Bribery?
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-10, if you solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit as consideration for knowingly violating or agreeing to violate a duty of fidelity that you owe, you will be guilty of commercial bribery in NJ.
Currently, there are six recognized situations that give rise to a duty of fidelity:
- Being the agent, partner, or employee of another
- Being a trustee, guardian, or fiduciary of another
- Being a lawyer, physician, accountant, appraiser, or other professional adviser or informant
- Being an officer, director, manager, or other participant in the direction of the affairs of an incorporated or unincorporated association
- Being a labor official (including any duly appointed representative of a labor organization or any duly appointed trustee or representative of an employee welfare trust fund)
- Being an arbitrator or other disinterested adjudicator or referee
If you fall into any of these and you act improperly when it comes to your duty of fidelity or violate it outright, there is a high likelihood that you will be charged with commercial bribery.
Additionally, if you hold yourself out to the public as being engaged in the business of making disinterested selections, appraisals, or criticisms of commodities, real property, or services and you solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit in order to influence your selection, appraisal, or criticism, then you will also be guilty of commercial bribery.
For example, imagine taking an antique piece of jewelry to an appraiser. When you get there, he examines it and tells you that it is not worth much at all. After hearing this, you tell him that if he certifies that the jewelry actually is worth a great deal of money, you will give him 25% of whatever you make off of selling it.
This very offer (i.e. solicitation) is a bribe, and, whether or not the appraiser takes it, you can be charged with commercial bribery. Remember, in this example, the appraiser would also be able to be charged with commercial bribery if he accepted the offer.
Penalties and Fines
Commercial bribery is a serious offense in New Jersey. The severity of your penalty will depend on the value of the bribe.
If the value of the benefit that you offer, give, agree to give, solicit, accept, or agree to accept is valued at more than $75,000.00, you can be guilty of a second degree crime. (You could face 5-10 years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000 fine.)
If the value of the benefit exceeds $1,000.00 but is less than $75,000.00, you can be guilty of a third degree crime. (You could face 3-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.) Lastly, if the value of the benefit is less than $1,000.00, the offender is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. (You could face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.) Be sure to hire an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid a conviction for commercial bribery in NJ.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with commercial bribery in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law today. His team of New Jersey criminal defense attorneys will do what they can in order to protect your legal rights and fight to keep you out of prison. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 today.