Extortion and Blackmail
Extortion by threat or force is defined in California in Penal Code 518. There are four elements involved in this crime—these elements are facts that the prosecutor has to prove in order for the alleged victim to be convicted. These four elements are that the defendant threatened to unlawfully injure or use force against the victim, a third party or the victims property, or accuse them or a relative or family member of a crime or expose a secret involving the victim or their family or connect any of them with some sort of scandal. Second, the defendant has to intend to force the victim into consenting to give them money or property to do an official act. Third, because of the threat, the victim actually gives their consent to give the defendant money or property or do an official act. Finally, the victim then has to actually give the defendant money or property or perform the official act. An official act is something that a public officer or government official does in their official capacity using their authority as a public official. If you only attempt to commit the crime of extortion, meaning that you are essentially unsuccessful in getting the money or property from the victim whom you threatened, then you can be charged with attempted extortion.
California considers most cases of extortion to be a felony. This means that if you are convicted of this crime you could serve two, three, or four years in county jail as well as be responsible for paying a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the court may impose a formal probation period. If the crime of extortion is committed in connection with gang activity, then it can count as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Attempted extortion in California is considered a wobbler—it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, penalties include up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 and can even include probation. If charged as a felony, penalties can be anywhere from 16 months to three years in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000 and the possibility of formal probation.
There are some defenses that can be used in order to fight an extortion charge; and an experienced legal defense attorney would know these defenses. One such defense could be that you did not actually strong-arm the alleged victim into handing over or consenting to handing over their property—rather, they willingly gave it to you. An attorney could also argue that you were falsely accused and as a result of the false accusation, that the charges should be dropped altogether. Finally, an attorney could argue that there is simply not enough evidence to support a conviction on the charge of extortion or blackmail.
If you or a loved one is facing an extortion charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.