Bribery is the crime of giving or receiving something of value to influence official action. Both the person giving and the person receiving the bribe are guilty of bribery.
Bribery is illegal for two reasons: (1) it usually involves a public official using his or her office for personal gain; and (2) it can cause officials to make unfair decisions that affect citizens. Bribery is a very old crime. There is evidence of bribery dating back more than 4,000 years.
Usually, a person who bribes a public official is paying to get special treatment. This special treatment can come in many forms. For example, a company might bribe an official to win a government contract.
Bribing a public official is the most common type of bribery. In the United States, officials convicted of bribery may be fined, removed from office, and sent to prison for up to 20 years. Commercial bribery, the bribery of owners or employees of private companies, is also illegal in many places, but it is less commonly punished.
No one knows how often people commit bribery, but many experts believe that most people who bribe officials are never caught. Bribery is more common in some countries or parts of countries than in others. Many countries have made it illegal to bribe officials from other countries.