Top Italian Court Rules 100 Euros Is Not High Enough To Constitute A Bribe

Carabiniere_a_Bologna_(April_2006)UnknownAn Italian court this month showed just how hard it is to bribe an Italian police officer. The highest Italian court acquitted a defendant of corruption charges because it found that the man offered the police officer only 100 euros during a drunk-driving traffic stop. That, the court concluded, was not nearly enough to bribe a police officer. While the court did not share the going market rate, it appears to be over 100 euros, which most of us would not viewed as a trivial sum.

The Court found that 100 euros was too small to be labeled as corruption. It is not clear what it would be since it would certainly fall short of honesty. I would also have thought that this was a fairly sizable amount for a roadside bribe. Does that mean that people can now offer 100 euros just to see if police will accept without fear of arrest? It would also suggest that, so long as drivers and police keep at or below 100 euros, this would fall into a judicially created loophole.

In the end, the driver was still convicted of drunk driving but his chronic cheapness saved him from a longer sentence.

As for the Court, it seems to have missed Edward Coke’s statement that, “though the bribe be small, yet the fault is great.” This now allows me to tell one of my favorite stories from the 1960s. A veteran Chicago reporter was asked derisively whether he “ever met an honest cop.” He feigned insult and said that when he was a student an officer pulled him over and demanded a bribe. He explained that he was a student and only had a $5 bill and a $20 bill to get him through the month. The officer said, “OK kid, just give me the $5.” Minutes later, the officer pulled him over again and ran up laughing and said “Kid, you gave me the $20.” The reporter finished by saying “so don’t tell me there is no honest cop.”

12 thoughts on “Top Italian Court Rules 100 Euros Is Not High Enough To Constitute A Bribe”

  1. Once back in the sixties at a beach party outside of Victoria BC the cops came by to shake things up. I was sitting on the sand, leaning against a log, watching the fire, with my feet up on my case of beer in ownership, and had just tossed my half full bottle of Labatts Blue away. A cop asked me if that was my beer and I said no. “Well get your goddmd feet off it then.” And, he picked up the case and wandered off. For a sixteen year old, that was the appropriate slap on the wrist.

    1. issac – I had forgotten about Labatt’s Blue. It was a half bad beer when you were 16 🙂

  2. Don’t think of these payments as “bribes.” Think of them as “TIPS” — i.e., to insure prompt service. I recall driving in New Jersey with some friends after we bought some beer. One of my friends in the back proceeded to open up one of the beers and began to drink it. Within minutes, police officers pulled me over, shined a flashlight into the back seat and proceeded to tell me that I violated the law because it was illegal, even for a passenger, to drink beer from a bottle in moving vehicle. I never heard of such a thing and it seemed illogical because I, the driver, wasn’t doing any drinking and could not control every aspect of the behavior of the passengers in my car. But the law was the law and the cop explained that a hefty fine could be in store for me. I calmly and quietly explained my “legal” perspective on the matter and one of the cops seemed amused at my response. So the cop says to me, “I’ll tell you what, you give us the two six-pack bottles of beer and we’ll forget the whole thing.” That sounded like as good a resolution as I was likely to get, so we agreed.

  3. Italy should be compelled to pay compensatory and punitive damages to Amanda Knox for the brutality it incoherently inflicted on her. The behavior of the Italian “system” of justice is beyond the pale.

  4. $20 was the going rate for speeding, traffic light violations, when we lived in Chicago back in the $80’s.

  5. Do not give it to me directly but drop it on the floor where you sit (translation from the Italian version).

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