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Understanding Bribery in Tennessee

People who face a traffic ticket or a possible arrest by a Tennessee police officer may feel angry, scared or even desperate to get out of the situation. However, it is best to do as the officer says so you do not cause additional problems for yourself. Unfortunately, some Tennesseans believe flashing a few dollar bills will dissuade an officer from writing a ticket. This act, known as bribery, can do great damage to your criminal defense and add more jail time and fines.

Bribery is taken very seriously by Tennessee law because it is a corruption of the justice system. Police officers and other public servants must operate according to the standards set by law without unfair or undue influence by other parties. Therefore, anyone who tries to offer money to get out of an arrest practically ensures an arrest on a count of bribery alone.

FindLaw lists bribery as a Class B felony under Tennessee law. Private citizens are judged to have committed bribery if they attempted to offer any pecuniary benefit to a public servant to sway an action that the official could take within his or her official capacity. Examples of bribery include when an individual tries to redirect an official’s judgment on a matter, sway a public servant’s use of discretion, or influence an official to cast a vote a certain way.

Tennessee media has chronicled a number of efforts by people in the state to try to bribe the police into letting them go. A few years ago, WREG Channel 3 out of Memphis posted a story about a resident of Hickory Hill who was pursued by police on suspicion of burglary. When confronted directly by police, the resident tried to offer $40 in exchange for letting him go. The result was that the suspect was slapped with a charge of bribery in addition to other charges.

The bottom line is that bribing a police officer is no solution to a traffic ticket or an arrest. Attempting bribery will only add to existing charges and could do serious harm to a person’s criminal defense. Additionally, Tennessee law will not only prosecute a person who attempts to bribe a public servant but will levy a Class B felony charge against an official who accepts the bribe.