On June 26, 2024, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held in Snyder v. United States that 18 U.S.C. § 666 does not apply to gratuities — even those that raise eyebrows and ethical concerns. The federal statute prohibits public officials, including most state and local officials, from “corruptly” soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept “anything of value from any person, intending to be influenced or rewarded” in connection with an official business or transaction worth US$5,000 or more. 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B) and (b). Indisputably, § 666 prohibits public officials from accepting bribes, that is “payments made or agreed to before an official act in order to influence the official with respect to that future official act.” Courts had long been split regarding whether § 666 applied to gratuities – “payments made to an official after an official act as a token of appreciation.” But SCOTUS has now determined that federal prosecution of gratuity payments was an inappropriate application of § 666 because it would leave many – mailman receiving a family’s holiday tip or a public-school teacher accepting a gift basket from a student’s parents – wondering whether the federal law applied to their conduct. SCOTUS emphasized, yet again, that when imposing criminal repercussions, a defendant should never be left in doubt.

Read the full update here.