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What Is Extortion Under California Law?

California Penal Code Section 518 PC makes it a crime to use threats or intimidation in order to get something from another person, or to influence an act of a public official. Here is how extortion is defined under state law:

“Extortion is the obtaining of property or other consideration from another, with his or her consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”

Extortion is also sometimes informally called blackmail.

Elements of the Crime

For a conviction in an extortion case, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, as described in California jury instructions, that the accused:

  • Threatened to injure or use force against the victim, another person, or property,
  • Threatened to accuse the victim or another person of committing a crime, or
  • Threatened to disclose a secret of the victim or family member unless given money, property, or something else of value.
  • Specifically intended that their threats would get the victim to give them money or property.
  • The victim gave money, property, or something else of value because of the threats or use of force.

Even if force was never used, you can be convicted of extortion just for using intimidation and threats.

Examples of Extortion

Some examples of extortion include if a person:

  • Blackmails someone for money in exchange for not disclosing an extramarital affair.
  • Threatens to ruin a government official’s reputation if they don’t rule or perform in a specific way.
  • Demands monetary payment in exchange for physical safety or protection.
  • Threatens violence against an individual’s family member if the individual does not give them something they want.

These are just a few scenarios of possible extortion. Whatever the specific extortion scenario you are charged with, we will work to prove your innocence, or have your charges dismissed or reduced.

Possible Related Charges

Offenses that may be charged along with or instead of an extortion charge, depending on the circumstances, include:

  • Attempted Extortion (California Penal Code 524 PC)
  • Robbery (California Penal Code 211 PC )
  • Bribery (defined in multiple California penal code sections depending on who is involved)

We will explain to you the extortion charges you face and how any related charges may impact your case.

Penalties for an Extortion Conviction in Folsom

Penalties for an extortion conviction under California law can include:

  • Up to 4 years in prison
  • A fine of as much as $10,000
  • Felony probation instead of, or in addition to, jail time

The severity of the penalty received depends on the details of the alleged crime. Aggravating factors such as a criminal history, extorting from an elderly person or someone with diminished mental capacity, or committing extortion in connection with gang activity increases penalties.

And besides the legal penalties, you could experience damage to your reputation, finances, and personal life if convicted. With the help of an extortion defense lawyer, your legal and collateral consequences may be greatly reduced.

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Possible Defenses to an Extortion Charge

There are several possible defenses to an extortion charge. Once we understand your charges, our extortion lawyer in Folsom will build a defense targeted to get you the most beneficial outcome.

False Accusations

In this defense, we will work to show that the accusations against you are false. Perhaps the alleged victim wanted to get back at you for something or has ill feeling toward you and wanted to make your life difficult. Revenge accusations of extortion are not unheard of and this could be what is happening in your case.

Lack of Intent

You had no specific intent to commit a crime. Maybe your actions were misunderstood by the victim or didn’t understand that what you were doing was against the law. In any case, you were not intentionally trying to extort property or money.

Insufficient Evidence

Guilt in criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. After we investigate the evidence against you, we may determine there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove your extortion charges. We may be able to persuade the prosecutor or the judge to drop or dismiss charges.

What kind of threats qualify as extortion?

Threats of physical, financial, or reputational harm qualify as extortion. This can include threats against the person who you want something from or against their family members. You do not have to follow through with the threat—just by making it you can be charged with extortion.

Can I be charged with extortion if I was just asking for what I am owed?

Threatening someone with civil action that you intend to take if they don’t pay you what they owe you is probably not extortion. On the other hand, if you threaten to publicly disclose damaging information about someone or use force against them unless they give you what you’re owed, you could be charged with extortion. Extortion law is very complex and charges and resolutions are dependent on the specific facts.

Is extortion a state or federal offense?

Extortion can be charged as either a state or federal offense. The specific facts of the alleged crime determine how it will be charged. For example, making threats using interstate communications or against federal officials, may be prosecuted at the federal level.

Call An Extortion Lawyer in Folsom for Help with Your Charges

Attorney Chris Walsh is a former prosecutor who focuses his Folsom practice on helping individuals accused of complex crimes. This experience on both sides of the justice system allows him unique insight into what it takes to defend against charges of extortion. He will bring that knowledge and proficiency to the legal representation he provides to you when fighting your charges.

Do not wait to get help. Contact us today at 530-499-0645 to arrange a time to speak with an extortion attorney in a free initial consultation.

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