Extortion is the crime of wrongfully obtaining property by means of oral or written threats, intimidation, or through a false claim. Typical examples include:
- Threatening to physically harm the victim or someone else close to the victim
- Threats to damage the victim’s property
- Threats to ruin the victim’s reputation – also called blackmail
The crime of extortion consists of the following elements:
- There was some type of communication by the defendant to victim
- Threatening accusation of a crime, offense, or any injury to the victim or the victim’s family member
- With intent to extort money or gain a pecuniary advantage
- Use of force or threat to compel a public official or officer to perform an official act
Extortion is more broadly defined than robbery; the threats need not be immediate. Instead, they can be threats of some future harm. Also, the property does not need to be taken at the time that the threat is made; rather, it can be obtained later.
Extortion is a felony offense in all states and carries severe consequences. In addition, if the extortion interferes with interstate commerce, the crime becomes a federal offense. A person convicted of extortion can face a variety of penalties, including:
Probation is typically not available in extortion cases unless the extortion was only attempted and was unsuccessful.
If you believe you are being extorted, call the police. If there is sufficient evidence of extortion, the police will forward your case to the local district attorney’s office. A deputy district attorney from that office will prosecute the extorter and possibly obtain restitution for you.