Bribery is almost always a crime, but while most cases focus on elected public officials, other people may be involved instead. When a public official is not involved, the target of bribery may instead be an athlete or official playing in a sporting event, often to make money through gambling. If you have been accused of bribing someone to throw a sporting event, a violation of California Penal Code 337(b) (PC), or if you’re an athlete or referee accused of accepting a bribe, Penal Code 337(c) (PC), contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your defense.
337(b) (PC): Bribing Someone to Throw a Sporting Event
Sports games, events, and tournaments depend on the integrity of the organizers, players, and refereees for the sport to have any legitimacy. As a result, when an athlete, coach or referee is paid to lose or play less competently, it is a crime. California law prohibits the bribery or attempted bribery of a participant or player with the understanding that a player will not use her best efforts.
Simply giving someone money to incentivize them to win a game is not bribery, as it is expected that the individual would attempt to win either way and you are just adding extra motivation. For this reason, if the prosecution cannot prove that you asked the participant or player to play less competently, then your attorney may be able to have the charges against you dropped.
Also, only sporting events where all athletes are expected to play to their full potential are really considered to be legitimate challenges of an athlete’s abilities. Because wrestling is a scripted show, it (and similar forms of entertainment) are not covered by this law. As a result, the writers who decide which wrestlers will win or lose a match are not violating the law.
What is the Penalty for Paying Someone to Lose a Sporting Event?
Under 337b (PC), bribing someone to throw a sporting event can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year in jail. As a felony, the crime is punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
337(c) (PC): Accepting a Bribe to Throw a Game
Whether it is more ethical to bribe someone to play poorly or for an athlete to take a bribe in exchange for attempting to lose is a matter of debate. The California state government seems to have already made up their mind, however.
While bribing someone to throw a sporting event can be a misdemeanor or a felony, accepting a bribe as a player or sports participant, a crime under 337(c) (PC) is always a felony. This offense is punishable by up to three years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines. Additionally, most athletes or other participants who are convicted of this crime will be permanently banned from playing, reffing, or coaching the sport professionally.
While California law treats the acceptance of bribes in a sporting event as more serious than offering a bribe, many of those who bribe players and participants are working with the mafia. As a result, many players are threatened with violence against themselves or loved ones if they do not accept a bribe to lose a match. In these cases, the defendant’s criminal lawyer can use the fact that they acted under duress to fight the charges.
If you have been accused of bribing someone to throw a sporting event or accepting a bribe to throw a match, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with attorney Peter M. Liss.