Extortion vs. Bribery vs. Quid Pro Quo: How Do They Differ?
Published July 12, 2022
Bribery and extortion are federal crimes that have always gotten media attention. On top of that, there’s quid pro quo – a Latin phrase that means “something for something”. In this guide, I’ll be explaining the differences between the three to enlighten you regarding the topic.
What Are The Differences?
Although all of them are legal terms associated with the ill-handling of money, a notable difference exists between bribery and extortion.
Both of which are crimes under federal law. In comparison, quid pro quo is not a term that’s permanently associated with something illegal.
Bribery is considered to be a white-collar crime. It’s defined as the offering, soliciting, giving, or receiving of any item of value to influence a public official. There are three elements to the federal bribery statute – 18 U.S. Code Section 201. The three elements are as follows:
- Giving something of value.
- To a public official.
- In order to influence that public official.
Keep in mind that bribery is a two-way street. Both those who offer and receive bribes can be prosecuted. For that reason, it’s not a good idea to either bribe someone or accept bribes.
Like bribery, extortion is classified as a white-collar crime under federal law. The 18 U.S. Code Section 872 statute states that extortion has three elements which are as follows:
- A public official or someone pretending to be a public official.
- Obtains anything of value from another individual.
- Using threats, instilling fear or injury, or kidnapping.
Quite interestingly, this isn’t the only legal definition of bribery in the United States. You’ve also got the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. Section 1951), which has elements similar to what’s above:
- A person acquires property from another person.
- By use of force, threats, fear, violence, or “under the color of official light”.
The “under the color official light” provision of this act means that for a public official to be convicted of extortion, they don’t have to obtain the property via force or threats. Instead, the coercive nature of extortion in this manner is simply provided by the fact that the public official holds office.
Quid Pro Quo
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that or “something for something”.
It can be applied to exchanging goods during sales, which isn’t illegal. Meanwhile, it also applies to bribery and extortion, which are both criminalized.
What Are The Penalties For Bribery & Extortion?
Bribery and extortion have different meanings and definitions according to federal law. With that said, both crimes are punished heavily.
A bribery charge and conviction can lead to a fine three times the equivalents of what was being bribed. Moreover, you can get up to fifteen years of jail time.
On the other hand, an extortion conviction results in a hefty fine, prison sentence, or both.
The prison sentence may only be limited to one year when the extortion involves something worth less than $1000. However, a Hobbs Act Extortion conviction may lead to larger fines alongside prison time that can last up to twenty years.
Summing It Up
Extortion vs. bribery vs. quid pro quo is a very different thing. As mentioned above, federal law has a legal definition for all of these terms.
That said, bribery and extortion are definitely crimes that you wouldn’t want to commit. When caught, you may end up serving a prison sentence besides having to pay a hefty fine.
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About The Author
Christian Cruz is an experienced blogger with a deep passion for content creation. He descends from a long line of lawyers, writers, and educators. Over the years, Chris has tackled all sorts of niches for a myriad of clients. As a result, millions of people worldwide have read and benefited from his content.