An 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.”