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Extortion and Blackmail Charges in California


As you might guess, extortion is a very serious crime and usually where I see the extortion charge used is extortion by threat or force and commonly known as blackmail.  This is California Penal Code Section 518 and 519.  The jury instruction that corresponds with this extortion charge in Cal Crim 1830.

The reason I bring up the jury instruction is because whenever you’re evaluating a case and its strengths or weaknesses, and you look at the evidence and you discuss it, you want to know what the elements of the crime are.

Extortion Elements of the Crime

In other words, you want to know what the government or the prosecutors would have to prove in order to convict a person of an extortion charge.  This is the jury instruction that is used in any trial, and it basically says the defendant is charged in Count ___ (they put whatever Count it is) with extortion by threat or force in violation of Penal Code Section 518.

To prove the defendant is guilty of this crime the People must prove that ___ (then they list the elements).

When they’re talking about the People, they’re talking about the prosecutors, because the prosecutors in an extortion case represent the People of the State of California and there’s a number of different theories that they can use.  So, there’s three elements, but for the first element, there’s three different ways to prove it.

Threats of Use of Force in Extortion

So, it says, the defendant threatened to unlawfully injure or use force against another person or a third-party or the property of another person or a third-party.  So, that’s number one.  Then they give an alternate one because a lot of different things can happen in these extortion cases.

The defendant threatened to accuse another person or that person’s relative or family member of a crime and then the last element or the last example of the first element is, the defendant threatened to expose a secret about another person or that the person’s relative or family member or to expose or connect him or her or any of them with disgrace, a crime, deformity.

So, they’re really just trying cover in that first element all of the different angles that somebody can extort another person because there’s a lot of different ways people can do that.

The second element is just by itself, and it says, number two, when making a threat or using force the defendant intended to use that fear or force to obtain the other person’s consent to give the defendant money or property or to do an official act.

So, now you’re starting to talk about bribery, getting the person to do something you want him to do or to give you money or property or goods, and then finally, number three, as a result of the threat or use of force, the other person consented to give the defendant money or property or to do an official act.  So, the person actually has to agree to it and then that would consummate the extortion.

Coerced Consent in Extortion

Now, there is a number four, and number four says, as a result of a threat or use of force, the other person then gave the defendant money or property or did an official act.  So, it really has to do with, first the person consenting to do it and then them actually doing it and it talks about the term consent has a special meaning.

Consent for extortion can be coerced or unwilling as long as it is given as a result of the wrongful use of force or fear.

So, if you’ve got an extortion case, just from what’s listed in that definition and those elements, you can tell it’s a little bit complicated, but really what the government, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement are trying to protect against in extortion cases in Los Angeles, is people trying to gain an advantage over another person to get something that they want by way of a threat or force or intimidation or coercion and they’re not going to let people do that.

They take this very seriously.  When I say they, I’m talking about law enforcement, prosecutors, judges.  So, if you’ve got one of these cases and you’re charged with extortion in Los Angeles, I’ve handled many cases like this.  I have a lot of experience.  I know what it takes to win the cases.  I know what it takes to defend them and I know what it takes to negotiate them if that’s what’s necessary.

Pick up the phone.  Make the call and we’ll get moving on this right away to protect your rights, your freedom, your reputation and your liberty. Call a California criminal defense lawyer to review the details of your case.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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