The felony white collar crime of extortion, also known as “blackmail,” is described under California Penal Code 518 PC as when someone uses force or threats to compel another person to give them their money or property, or compel a public officer to perform an official act.
If you are convicted of PC 518 extortion, it's punishable by up to four years in a state prison and a fine up $10,000.
The crime of extortion between two people occurs more often than you might think since the advancements in internet technology allowing people to easily access private information that could damage the reputation of another person.
An example of extortion includes a situation where a person makes threats to expose the extramarital affair of a high-ranking company executive unless they are paid $25,000.
Another example is when a government official is threatened with force unless they perform a specific act.
Even further, threatening to report to police someone committing crime unless they are paid a certain amount of money is also considered extortion.
For more detailed information, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.
Definition and Related Crimes for PC 518 Extortion
Penal Code 518 PC defines extortion as follows:
- “Extortion is the act of obtaining property or other considerations from somebody, with their consent, or obtaining an official act of a public officer that was induced by an unlawful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”
PC 518 has a very broad extortion definition that could involve many different type of activity. This means it could be possible for someone to commit the crime of extortion without having the actual intent to violate the statute.
In the state of California, there are some other statutes that are related to Penal Code 518 extortion, such as:
- Penal Code 522 PC – extortion by signature,
- Penal Code 524 PC – attempted extortion,
- Penal Code 532 PC – extortion by threatening letter.
The use of threats
It should be noted that you could be arrested, charged, and convicted of PC extortion if you never actually used force against the victim.
In other words, just making the threats against someone is sufficient to get convicted, but it has to be proven your threats was the main reason the victim consented.
The elements of the crime for extortion, which are the factors a prosecutor must prove for a conviction, are listed under CALCRIM 1830 California Criminal Jury Instructions.
Different Schemes Involving Extortion
Extortion is a serious crime and I would say most of the time prosecutors, judges and the police want to send an offender who commits an extortion crime to prison.
That's the worst thing they can do to them and they know that people who are extorting or blackmailing people out of money, goods or services are the type of people who deserve to go to prison because they're using sophistication and the threat of violence, force or fear to get what they want.
Sometimes they use weapons. There's all sorts of different schemes that involve extortion.
I've seen the internet used where somebody is blackmailing another person, threatening to release sensitive information about them if they don't pay them money or give them some sort of goods or favors.
The authorities don't like these types of crimes. Sometimes business owners are threatened by individuals who are trying to gain money or goods or services from them by way of an extortion plot.
Getting Extortion Charges Reduced to a Lesser Crime
So, if you or a loved one is charged with extortion, you've got your work cut out for you. Their attorney has their work cut out for them.
If you want to avoid going to jail or prison, it's going to take a herculean effort to make that happen. First, we have to get you out of the category of extortion:
- sometimes these crimes are over-charged;
- sometimes they're glorified theft-type plots that don't deserve to have the title of extortion.
Who wants to have an extortion conviction on their record that follows them around forever? It's a straight felony; never charged as a misdemeanor and it's very difficult to get off your record.
Obviously, it's difficult to get a job if you have an extortion-related offense tagged on you.
Mitigation Package in Extortion Cases
But the first and most important thing we have to look at is, are they going to be able to prove the case against you.
If they can prove the case, now we're in mitigation mode, meaning:
- we have to get character letters,
- we have to figure out if people lost money, and
- how to get their money back to them.
We have to take every precaution possible to try to either get rid of the prison/jail time and figure out some other form of punishment.
If on the other hand, you're not guilty of the crime, then we're down a totally different track. Now, we're investigating.
We're figuring out what the evidence is that they're claiming supports the argument that you committed extortion in California and we're going to try to refute that evidence and show that you're not guilty.
Most of the cases though, that are filed as extortion-type cases, the government's got the evidence. If they didn't have the evidence, if their case was weak, a lot of defense attorneys would be able to show the prosecutors they were going to lose and they would just get rid of the case.
Seeking Different or Lesser Charges than Extortion
So, if they've charged the case and they've got the evidence on the case, then we need to go down a path that attempts to keep you out of prison, first and foremost.
Once we have that, then we can figure out angles to try to get a different charge other than extortion, if that's possible — if the authorities will consider that.
Then finally, we have to look to what type of punishment you are going to get. If you're not going to go to prison or jail, what is your punishment going to be and how is it going to affect you moving forward?
I, as a defense attorney, as a warrior, first look to win the case. If I can't win the case because of the circumstances, then I'm looking how to mitigate the case. I'm looking how to:
- protect my client's future,
- their rights, their freedom,
- their reputation, so that we can achieve the best possible result.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with extortion, which is a very serious crime, you're looking to see if they've got a legit case against you, and what you can do about it.
You've come to the right place. Pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I handle these types of cases all the time.
I get great results for my clients because I work hard. I figure out what must be done right from the beginning and I execute the plan to get it done.
Hedding Law Firm is located at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We offer a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.