Have you ever bribed a cop?

Continuing the discussion from Illegal to bribe or proposition a police officer?: Have you ever bribed a cop?

I did it, once. It was in Mexico. On a road trip from San Francisco to Cabo back in the summer of 1996, two friends and I were leaving our rented apartment in Cabo San Lucas. I was driving. Pulling out of the parking lot, I turned left onto a street and immediately a nearby officer blew her whistle and signaled me to stop. She was on foot.

She didn’t seem to speak any English, and with my best broken Spanish I understood her to tell me that I was going the wrong way down a one-way street. The street was a wide two lane road, not overly narrow, and there were no visible markings or signs. Certainly, no signs at the parking lot’s entrance/exit. Looking further down the road where she pointed I could see cars parked on both sides of the street, all pointed my way. Okay I can see that now, I was thinking.

In my best Spanish and in my defense I pointed out that there was no signage. No traffic to indicate direction of travel. She was insistent and she said she had to cite me. Thinking fast, and also thinking about how to phrase the next words to come from my lips, in my best Spanish I conceded. I gave in and said OK, I would pay the fine, and then I carefully asked if there was a way I could take care of the fine here and now. I’d read bad stories about the laws and jails in Mexico, so that’s why I phrased it that way. If she was going to cite me, then I was going to pay the fine. I just wanted to do it quickly.

She turned her head to look both ways, as if to see if anyone was watching. Right then I knew I had her. She said OK, yes. Now the question becomes, how much do I offer her? I had a few hundred dollars in cash on me but I wanted to start low.

I started very low. Thinking quickly I said to her that I was poor and didn’t have much money (it helped to be driving the friend’s old Geo Metro, a humble car) and I started by saying, with my palms up, OK, but I only have $5. It was enough for her. That is when I pulled out my wallet. I hadn’t pulled it out before then. She took the $5, never cited me, and let me go on my way.

I certainly don’t encourage that behavior, but it worked. I enjoy telling that story every now and then. That was about 25 years ago now.

So, have you ever bribed someone? Share your story. I have another story about a cop in Montenegro, not a bribery story, but that’s for another thread.

I bribed one thru a lawyer to get out of a speeding ticket that would have put me on high risk insurance. Paid the lawyer $500 and he talked with the officer outside the courtroom. The lawyer exchanged favors with him to drop the charge down to a zero point offense. Lawyer said he does it all the time. Hate to be the client that could not pay his fee and watch the favor get repaid. Justice in America.

Tijuana, Mexico. Mr VOW made a left turn, and we found out that is NOT allowed. Cop made us follow him to the police station, and we did a LOT of waiting in the car. It all boiled down to the cop asking Mr VOW, “How much money you got?”

We got out of there for a hundred bucks.

When we got home and told the story to our kids, The Son started singing “Tijuana Jail.”


Not a policeman, but a customs official. In the 80s I traveled a lot as a worker in the oil patch(es). There were a couple of really out of the way spots that I learned it was easier to give him something and not lose my camera or other valuables. In one, I just learned to put 2 cases of cigarettes on top of everything in my bag, and the official would open it, smile, and scoop them out – never examining anything else. In another, I almost lost my camera when the official said it would be seized because I didn’t have permits or receipts. I finally caught on and asked if there was a fine that could be paid due to my lack of awareness. Amazingly there was, and it was only $20.00.

One instance in deep South Texas (late 60s) may have been legit, but I’ve never been sure. Caught speeding and was told I had to pay the fine in that county right then, or be their “guest”. The state policeman had me follow him to a tiny town and to a house trailer with a “Court” sign out front. The “judge” was a lady working in the garden out front and she came inside, sat at a desk in the living room and told us the fine ($100.00 cash). We paid, she hit the desk with (I swear) a claw-hammer and said court was adjourned. We left, having never given her our name, nor filled out a single form, and with no receipt. We figured just moving on down the road was the better choice.

I paid another officer $50 to take the overtime shift I was up next on the mandatory list to get. Is that considered bribery?

This was SOP for traffic enforcement when I lived in Panama. I did it once or twice. Like the OP it was ticklish in my poor Spanish; if the officer spoke English they sure weren’t going to let on.

In the USA? Nope.

I haven’t done it personally, but I’ve seen it done. When I lived in Africa, I didn’t have a car, so I took small buses to go from town to town. There were often checkpoints, ostensibly for the police to check registrations and safety, but often just allowed police to extract fees from the driver.

In one poor area, the bribe (or ‘dash’ in Ghanaian English) was a loaf of bread.

Not me, but my sister watched our Dad do it. 1980’s.

Dad was whiter than white Northern European but was fluently bilingual, having been adopted at birth by a Mexican couple and raised in the poor part of El Paso. He could speak both English and Spanish without any accent. Mom and Dad and Sis lived in San Diego, and M&D loved going to Tijuana to shop and dine.
So one fateful evening, Dad and my Sister were driving around TJ when they got pulled over. Dad was a famously slow, careful driver, and Sis says they both knew immediately that the stop was bogus. The fact that they were in Dad’s ostentatious Cadillac might have been a factor.
Sis kept her mouth shut, scared shitless (she was about 13) and watched Dad handle it.
She thinks the cop must have been surprised when the Gringo in the Caddy rolled down his window and started talking in obviously native Spanish.
After listening to the bullshit reason he’d been pulled over, Dad very politely explained “Officer, I’m running late for (whatever). Would it be all right if I paid the fine right here, and you could take it to the judge for me?”
At that point, they both knew what game was being played and pretenses were dropped. The cop asked “How much do you have?”
Dad opens his wallet, has a credit card and five dollars cash. Dad told him the truth, he only had five dollars, did he (the cop) think the judge would accept it? Sister later told me that was the moment she thought they were headed for a day or three in jail.
The cop took the five, dismissively let them go. Dad later told Sis that referring to “the judge” was the key to not acknowledging it was a shakedown.

Second True Story from late 1970’s:
One of the people I used to work with was a middle aged Mexican guy. Abel was a US citizen but had been born in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Abel, his wife, and several kids were driving through Chihuahua to visit his family. Station Wagon, California plates. Out in the middle of nowhere they came to a roadblock, manned by guys in military uniforms. Abel said it was bare bones and to the point- He rolled his window down, the armed officer told him to hand over his wallet. Abel started to remove his Driver’s License but the cop said “No, the wallet.” He took the wallet, simply took all the cash out of it, gave the wallet back and told Abel to go. About $400.

I can see that stashing your cash elsewhere is a good idea in Mexico.


I went to a ball game at Shea Stadium with a friend and we didn’t like our seats, so we slipped an usher $20 for a couple of well placed box seats. Does that count?

I got extorted for money by a Mexican police officer, so, kinda yes, but it was involuntary.

The distinction had occurred to me but I also figured “crooked traffic cop shakedown” was close enough in spirit to involuntary bribery.

My read is that you want to keep, say, seven or eight bucks in your wallet - and restock it from your real roll after each shakedown. As much as you don’t want to be handing over $400, you probably also don’t want to look like you have nothing to hand over either.

“Bribe”, no; “Influence Favorably”, yes.

Very good point. Even in the 1970’s, roadblock/traffic stop shakedowns in Mexico were a long-established well-known fact of life, and I wondered what possessed Abel to not have been prepared for such an eventuality.

I think the term “bribe” is too derogatory to the police. I suggest in the future we refer to this as “lobbying”.

Sounds so much better that way.

Honduras, no fire extinguisher in my car in a spot check. Fine a couple of bucks. I asked for a receipt, he gave me a choice, receipt or my DL. I’m calling it a bribe, although I didn’t offer it.

I had the reverse happen…a cop angling for a bribe and I didn’t do it.

Make no mistake…I DEFINITELY would have paid him. The only reason I didn’t was I couldn’t.

I was driving from Phoenix to Chicago and got pulled over near the AZ/NM border…kinda the middle of nowhere.

The Arizona cop was threatening me (threaten sounds bad…he was not mean or shouty…just threatening what would happen). He was telling me I had to pay the ticket or go back to the police station which was 100 miles (I forget…back to Flagstaff I think) where I’d have to sit till it was all sorted.

I offered to pay by credit card, I offered to pay by check but he was having none of it. I really would have paid him to be out of there but he needed untraceable cash which I simply did not have. After scaring me for a bit to see if I was just hiding something he let me go with a warning.

Ended well but for 20 minutes it really sucked.

Cash is king. Always carry some.

Jiminy Christmas, this story is awful. And scary. Glad you got out of there OK.