Official Sources on Texas Bribery Laws
As always, we’ll first give a record of the official bribery laws in the state of Texas and where one can find the updated laws. The relevant legal code can be found in Chapter 36 of the Texas Penal Code which deals with “Bribery and Corrupt Influence.”
How Texas Defines Bribery
In Texas, bribery is committed if any person is the recipient of any benefit in exchange for a “decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or another exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, or voter.”
Obviously, this leaves open a lot of questions about just who or what.
Who Can Be Bribed
In terms of the people who you may not offer a benefit for, the list is fairly extensive. Generally speaking, anyone that holds a position in the government, police or political party (whether they were elected or appointed) is considered someone who can potentially be bribed.
The state has a more lenient version of tampering which simply addresses those who interfere with judicial proceedings through private conversations with the goal of influencing the outcome of a case (section 36.04 of the penal code). However, it is very rare to be cited for this in Texas and has only been recorded 5 times between 2015 and 2019.
Tampering With A Witness
The state considers a witness to have been tampered with if someone offers, or at least makes an agreement to offer, goods or services to alter their opinion to the court. However, it doesn’t have to be as clear a benefit as is often portrayed in movies and films. For example, it is still tampering if, in exchange for goods or services, the accused is asked to do any of the following:
(1) to testify falsely; to withhold any testimony, information, document, or thing;
(3) to elude legal process summoning him to testify or supply evidence;
(4) to absent himself from an official proceeding to which he has been legally
(5) to abstain from, discontinue, or delay the prosecution of another.
What makes tampering unique among the laws is that the severity of the penalty is contingent on the case that one is tampering with. This is best explained through the relevant punishments. The penalty for tampering is the greater of:
(1) A felony of the third degree.
(2) The most serious offense was charged in the case in which the tampering occurred.
For example, if you tamper in a murder case, you can be charged with murder. If you tamper in a jaywalking case, then you will be given the more severe penalty (a felony in the third degree).
Where Bribery is Most Common in Texas
Since 2015, it may surprise some that most cases of bribery in Texas have not occurred in Houston (Texas’ biggest city and the fourth biggest city in the United States). However, people are probably even more surprised to learn that Dallas county is also not home to the most cases of bribery in the Lonestar state. Then where is?
In between Houston and Dallas, and just outside College Station Texas rests Walker County Texas. Despite only being 802 square miles in size and home to less than 100,000 residents (72,295 in the 2020 census), Walker County is one of the only counties in Texas to consistently produce bribery cases. Since 2015, Walker county has had more than 60 bribery cases according to the state’s official records.
It’s important to note that these are just places that have the most bribery cases, but not necessarily the places in the state that have the most bribery. The only official numbers we have access to are the cities (and counties) official numbers that require an arrest or citation for the actual incident to be counted. In other words if the bribery is successful, it wouldn’t be on this list.