Theoretically say that an individual is offered a bribe from someone to not do action X. The individual accepts the money, but does action X anyways. The bribe was, obviously, not part of a legally binding document.

If the officer in question discloses the bribe, pays tax on it etc, and continues to do the action they intended despite the bribe, are they legally allowed to accept it?

In this case assume a situation with a simple binary option of doing either X or Y so that it's obvious that the officer either was or was not influenced by the bribe, with no ambiguous middle ground. For instance perhaps they were bribed to not report a violation of an appropriate law that they did report.

  • 3
    Your IP address has been logged, in case you decide to run for office in the future. Thank you </Federal Bureau of Investigations>
    – user0306
    Jan 18, 2017 at 0:34
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    It bears noting that many jurisdictions in the U.S. also have laws that make it illegal to give gifts to public officials called "gift bans", such as the very strict one in Colorado (or more narrowly to public officials to whom one can apply for government contracts called "pay to play" laws in more jurisdictions), that bar economics transfers even when there is no overt bribe. Conflict of interest laws for public officials can also have the same effect by taking the official out of play in those circumstances.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:07

1 Answer 1


Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty. 1

The money was offered to influence the actions of the official: it is irrelevant if the actions were influenced or not - its a bribe and, in most jurisdictions, accepting a bribe is a crime.

The ethically correct behavior for the official (and the one that affords them the greatest legal protection) is to refuse the bribe if this is a safe thing to do (many bribes come with an implicit threat) or accept the money and then ASAP turn it over to the relevant law enforcement as proceeds of crime, report the bribery to relevant law enforcement, and recuse themselves from the decision: the fact that a bribe was offered raises the perception that the decision they make will be biased against the briber, that is, it will not be an impartial decision.


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