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What Is Extortion?

November 4, 2019

In most cases, extortion is charged as a felony

What Is Extortion?

Blackmail is a major plot point of many television shows, movies and books. A politician may be extorted into voting a certain way, or a baseball player may be blackmailed into blowing a big game. It all seems very exciting and simultaneously far-fetched — yet extortion is a very real crime that happens in a number of different ways, both big and small.

As a criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA can explain, extortion (also referred to as blackmail) is a crime under California law. There are several different ways that this crime may be charged. Extortion by threat or force occurs when:

  1. An individual threatened to do one of the following to the alleged “victim”:
  2. Unlawfully injure or use force against him/her, a third party, or his/her property,
  3. Accuse him/her or a relative or family member of a crime, OR
  4. Expose a secret involving him/her or a family member, or connect any of them with some kind of crime, disgrace, or scandal;
  5. When making the threat or using force, the individual intended to force the "victim" into consenting to give him/her money or property or to do an official act;
  6. As a result of the threat, the "victim" did consent to give the individual money or property or do an official act; AND
  7. The "victim" then actually did give the individual money or property or perform the official act.

Alternatively, a person can extort someone through a threatening letter. This involves the same elements as extortion by threat or force, except that the threat is put into a letter or other writing, and the alleged victim does not need to hand over the property or money or otherwise commit an official act.

Finally, extortion of signature can be charged when an individual threatens an alleged victim as described above, with the purpose of obtaining the other person’s signature on a document or check that would transfer property or create a debt or right of legal action. As a result of the threat, the victim must have signed the document or check.

Extortion or blackmail can happen in any number of ways. An adult child may tell their parents that they will falsely accuse them of child abuse if they don’t give them money to fund their drug abuse. A local property owner may threaten a member of city council, saying that he will expose an extramarital affair, if the council member does not vote to approve the building of a cell phone tower on the man’s property.

According to a criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA, extortion is a felony offense. It is punishable by between two and four years in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, and/or formal probation. However, if the alleged victim is considered to be a dependent person or a senior, then it will be an aggravating factor that will enhance your sentence. A conviction for extortion may count as a strike for purposes of California’s Three Strikes Law if it is committed in connection with gang activity. In some limited circumstances, extortion may be charged as a misdemeanor.

There are a number of potential defenses to a charge of extortion or blackmail. An experienced criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA can argue that the alleged victim consented to do the act in question — and that it was not motivated by a threat. Alternatively, the charge could simply be a matter of false allegations or may be supported by insufficient evidence.

If you have been charged with extortion or any California criminal offense, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a skilled criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA.

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