People ex rel. Dickinson v. Van De Carr

87 A.D. 386, 84 N.Y.S. 461 (App. Div. 1903)

 

RULE:

In the absence of any statute defining a bribe, a court must have recourse to the decisions and text writers to determine what was embraced in that term at common law. Bribery is an indictable offense at common law, and although in the early days it was limited to judicial officers and those engaged in the administration of justice, it was later extended to all public officers. It is variously defined as taking or offering an "undue reward" or a "reward" to influence official action.

FACTS:

The inmate had received a letter from the commissioner of street cleaning that indicated that he would rehire a certain employee if the inmate would obtain more money for the street cleaning department. The inmate responded that he would vote for the money toward the street cleaning department and that the termination of the employee was too harsh of a punishment. The court upheld the inmate's conviction under § 72 and held that the letter disclosed the inference that the commissioner of street cleaning sought a political and personal advantage from the inmate and, in turn, the inmate improperly influenced the commissioner of street cleaning to reinstate the fired employee.

ISSUE:

Was the inmate properly convicted for violating N.Y. Penal Code § 72?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court upheld the inmate's conviction under § 72 and held that the letter disclosed the inference that the commissioner of street cleaning sought a political and personal advantage from the inmate and, in turn, the inmate improperly influenced the commissioner of street cleaning to reinstate the fired employee. The court held that the interests of public service required that public officers act honestly and fairly upon propositions laid before them for consideration and were not to be influenced by nor receive pecuniary benefit from their official acts. Further, the court noted that a public officer had the duty to consider any recommendation for money on its merits or demerits, not upon a promise to another of favorable action in return for some other act.

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