Extortion, which is commonly referred to as blackmail, is a crime many have heard about. This is because extortion most often is targeted towards those who are well-known in society, but no one is immune from becoming victims of this crime.
Specifically, extortion is the use of force or threats against a person or public official. If attempting to extort a person, the threats are made to compel the individual to hand over property, money, or other assets. When directed at a public official, the threats aim to compel the official to instigate an official act they would not do otherwise, or to give up their property or money because of their role as a public official. These elements have been codified by California Penal Code 518 PC, and severe punishments awaits those who violate the law.
According to 518 PC, there are certain elements that the prosecution must prove in order to convict the defendant with having committed extortion. The victim must have been threatened by force, been falsely accused of a crime, or become connected to some sort of event that would negatively damage their reputation. All three of these threats can also be applied to the victim’s family members. As a result of such threats, the defendant must have then compelled the victim to procure money or property or perform an act as a public official. Furthermore, the victim (as a result of the threats) must consent to requirements of the threats and have gone through with any of the aforementioned acts.
According to the law, extortion is a felony crime. To actually extort a victim carries a jail sentence of up to four years, probation, and a possible fine of $10,000. However, if not all of the elements of extortion are proven, or the victim never did what they were threatened to do, the defendant can still be convicted of attempted extortion, which can be either a misdemeanor or felony crime. In either case, if someone is accused of extortion (or attempted extortion), it is imperative they seek the advice of a criminal attorney. An experienced attorney can protect the defendant’s best interests.