Extortion occurs when someone attempts to get money or property by threatening to commit violence, accusing the victim of a criminal offense, or revealing private or damaging information about the victim. An individual who is going through this should hire a blackmail lawyer as they specialize in cases like this.
You’ve probably seen it portrayed numerous times in film or television: A mobster makes his way into an area family-run store and tells the elderly owners that they have to pay him money so he can defend them from the neighborhood thugs or his actions. This common plot device is predicated on the real-life crime of extortion, which is punished altogether by states and under federal law.
Crime of Extortion
The crime of extortion traditionally covered only actions by public or government officials, though today the crime applies to actions by private citizens as well. (In some states, extortion applies to acts by public officials, while blackmail applies to acts by private citizens, even though both activities are equal.) Let’s break down the elements of extortion.
Extortion is based upon some sort of threat. The person who is making the threats must state an intention to commit a harmful action or injury against the victim. For instance, under California’s law, an individual can commit extortion by threatening to injure the victim or another person, accuse the victim of a criminal offense or another disgraceful conduct, expose a secret, or report an individual to immigration. An individual can make the threat verbally, in writing, or maybe through non-verbal gestures or other communications. In some states, merely making a threat is enough to qualify as a criminal offense.
A person commits extortion when making a threat to force somebody else to supply money, property, or something useful. However, the intent isn’t supported by the defendant’s statements alone, but rather upon the circumstances and facts surrounding the threat. In other words, a prosecutor can prove the accused intended to deprive the victim of property without having to truly show what was happening in the defendant’s head.
When someone makes a threat or attempts extortion, the threat itself must be able to cause fear with the victim. The fear is often supported by almost anything, like the fear of violence, economic loss, social stigma, deportation, or anything which may cause the victim to act or hand over their property. Although the victim experiences don’t need to fear, only that the accused individual intended to cause fear. Also, an individual who experiences fear doesn’t necessarily make the accused guilty of extortion, because the accused must have intended to cause the fear to gain property.
The type of property someone tries to get when using extortion encompasses almost anything that has value. However, the property doesn’t have to be the actual property and maybe property that doesn’t have a dollar value. It’s also not necessary for the accused to truly deprive the victim of property, as attempting to extort property is additionally a criminal offense. Courts have held that the property involved in extortion can include such property as cash, tangible goods, liquor licenses, debts, and even agreements to not compete in business. Sexual acts are also typically covered, though some states have specific laws that govern sexual extortion.
Punishment for Extortion
Though states provide a good range of penalties for extortion, the crime is most frequently punished as a felony offense. A felony is the most serious category of crime, one that’s punishable by a minimum of a year in prison and significant fines. In some states and some situations, however, the crime could also be classified as a misdemeanor, in which case it’s lower fines and jail sentences related to it. Hiring a blackmail lawyer to deal with all of the legal procedures will help the individual who is going through this.
Fines for extortion range widely but can be as much as $10,000 or more for every conviction.
Additionally to fines, an individual convicted of extortion must often pay restitution to the victim, especially when the victim was deprived of valuable property. Unlike a fine, restitution is paid to the victim as compensation for all the loss the victim suffered.
Prison sentences for extortion are often significant. State laws leave prison sentences of up to fifteen years or more for every individual extortion attempt.
Courts can also impose probation sentences for an extortion conviction. Courts could also be more likely to use a probation sentence when someone has failed at attempted extortion or the extortion didn’t otherwise end in any loss of property by the victim. Probation sentences typically last for 12 months or more, may include a fine, and require that the convicted person complies with specific terms imposed by the court, such as keeping a job and not contacting the victim. Failing to comply with probation terms typically leads to having to serve a jail sentence. An individual needs to hire an experienced blackmail lawyer to help him or her with the legal procedures.