Sabri v. United States

Facts of the Case

Petitioner real estate developer, who proposed to build a hotel and retail structure in the city of Minneapolis was indicted for offering bribes to a city councilman. The charges were brought under 18 U.S.C.S. § 666(a)(2).  Before trial, petitioner moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that § 666(a)(2) was unconstitutional for failure to require proof of a connection between the federal funds and the alleged bribe as an element of liability. The trial court held that the law was facially invalid as outside Congress’s power to legislate. The appellate court, in reversing, concluded that § 666 was a necessary and proper exercise of congressional power. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the appellate court’s judgment.


May Congress make it a federal crime to bribe officials of non-federal organizations that distribute some federal funds without requiring prosecutors to prove that the bribe actually affected federal funds?


Yes. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice David Souter, the Court held that Article I of the Constitution allows Congress to prohibit bribery of organizations that distribute federal funds. The Justices found that the Spending Clause authorizes Congress to spend money for the general welfare, and that the Necessary and Proper Clause authorizes it to take any reasonable steps to prevent such money from being misspent. These reasonable steps include prohibiting bribery. The Court rejected Sabri’s argument that the law was unconstitutional because it applied to all bribes, not just those made in connection with actual federal funds. The Court held that to require proof of a connection between the bribes and federal funds would unreasonable and impractical