Extortion is the unlawful act of obtaining property (whether money, items, or favors) through threats or force. Since it can victimize ordinary U.S. citizens as well as public officials, most states take an aggressive stance against extortion.
In California and other states, you can face serious consequences for an act of extortion or a threat of extortion. Those who commit extortion will likely face felony charges.
What types of threats constitute extortion?
Under California criminal law, four types of threats can form the legal basis for an extortion case. These are:
- The threat to unlawfully injure people or property
- The threat to disclose secret information involving the victim
- The threat to accuse another or their family of committing a crime
- The threat to expose scandalous details about another or associate them with criminal activity
If convicted of extortion, defendants may face two to four years in prison. An attempted extortion conviction could result in a fine approaching $10,000, up to a year in jail or a combination of both penalties. A conviction on attempted extortion charges may also lead to a prison sentence.
How can you defend against these charges?
There are few defenses against extortion other than proving you did not commit the crime. However, prosecutors must show that the victim felt fearful about the threat and that their fear caused them to consent. If you can argue that the victim gave their consent for other reasons, your defense may be successful.
Whether you believe you have a defense or not, learn more about extortion and getting legal guidance are crucial. This can help you determine which criminal defense option is best for you.