From Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, Illinois has long and proud political history. As rich as our state's political past is, however, it would perhaps be remiss to overlook the fact that it has had a few darker chapters, including two recent governors convicted on charges related to bribery.
Given this unfortunate reality, it's important for people to have an accurate knowledge of how the law in Illinois views bribery so that they not only have a better understanding of our past, but so that they also don't rush to judgment when headlines declare that a local or state official is merely under investigation.
In general, bribery refers to the scenario in which something of value is offered, solicited, given or received in order to directly influence the actions or decisions of a person holding office, or tasked with looking out for public safety and welfare. In other words, it is a sort of "quid pro quo" relationship in which otherwise objective decisions are made in a manner that benefits both the offeror and recipient.
By way of example, consider the classic scenario of an individual or firm paying an elected official cash for supporting or vetoing a particular bill. Consider also scenarios in which things like vacations, tickets or other favorable treatment are offered to officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as a means of influencing their conduct in a particular manner.
While state law on bribery is rather dense, it essentially prohibits the following:
- Making promises or offers of property or personal advantage to a public officer, public employee, juror or witness, (or anyone a person thinks holds these positions), which they would be unauthorized by law to accept
- Soliciting, receiving, retaining or agreeing to accept promises or offers of personal advantage knowing that it was made to influence the performance of actions relating to the employment/functions of public officers, public employees, jurors or witnesses
Given bribery's classification as a Class 2 felony, those convicted face anywhere from three to seven years in prison, and a fine of up to $25,000.
If you are a public official who is under investigation or has been charged with a bribery-related offense, it's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible given both the personal and professional stakes. Together, you can discuss defense strategies designed to dismantle the case against you and protect your reputation.