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Extortion – California Penal Code 518 PC

You may have heard the terms “blackmail”, “coerce”, “put the squeeze on” or “shakedown”. These are all common street terms for the crime of extortion. Under California Penal Code 518 PC, you can be charged with extortion if you threaten someone with injury or force, if you threaten to accuse someone of a crime, or if you threaten to expose a secret about someone, in an attempt to obtain property or money, or get someone to do an official act. If you issue the threat through a written letter or other writing, you may be charged with extortion by threatening letter under California Penal Code 523 PC.

Should you issue a threat that demands a signature on a check or document that would “transfer property or create a (debt/demand/charge/right of legal action)” you may be charged with extortion of signature under California Penal Code 522 PC.

Prosecution of Extortion

extortion by threats
A man is threatened through blackmail via telephone

Extortion by threat or force – California Penal Code 518 PC

In order for you to be convicted of extortion by threat or force under California Penal Code 518, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:

  1. You threatened to:
    1. injure or force an individual or their property;
    2. accuse an individual or their family of a crime; or
    3. expose a secret about a person or their family;
  2. When you made the threats, you intended to force the person to give you money, property, or to do an official act;
  3. The person consented as a result of your blackmail; and
  4. The person gave you the money or property, or did the official act.

 

Extortion of Signature – California Penal Code 522 PC

In order for you to be convicted of extortion of signature under California Penal Code 522, the prosecution must prove to the court all of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You threatened to:
    1. injure or use force against a person or that person’s property;
    2. accuse a person or their family of a crime; or
    3. expose a secret about a person or their family;
  2. You made those threats with the intention of obtaining a signature on a document that would transfer  property or create a debt /demand/ charge/ right of action); and
  3. The other person signed the document.

 

Extortion by Threatening Letter – California Penal Code 523 PC

To be convicted of extortion by threatening letter under California Penal Code 523, the prosecutor must prove to the court the three elements that define the crime –

  1. You sent or delivered a threatening letter to someone else;
  2. You threatened in the letter to:
    1. Injure the person or their family;
    2. Accuse a person or their family of a crime; or
    3. Expose a secret about the person or their family; and
  3. You intended to use fear of those threats to get money, property, or the performance of an official act from the other person with their consent.

 

Sentencing and Punishment for Extortion

punishment for extortion
Punishment for extortion is severe in California

Extortion is a felony crime that carries a hefty fine and prison sentence. If you are convicted of extortion, extortion by threatening letter, or extortion of signature, money or property, you face a sentence of two, three or four years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

If you are convicted of attempting to extort, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

If there are aggravated circumstances in your case, such as if you extorted or attempted to extort from a senior citizen, or from someone with a mental or physical disability, you may face additional penalties per California Penal Code 525.

 

Possible Defenses to Extortion Charges

A skilled attorney with experience in successfully handling extortion cases will be able to devise a defense strategy on your behalf in order to get you the best possible results in your case. These include:

  1. Consent. If your attorney can prove to the court that the alleged victim consented to give you the money, property, or to perform an official act, for some other reason than your threats, then you should not be convicted of extortion.
  1. No intent. If you did not intend to blackmail the alleged victim to obtain their property or money, or you did not intend to induce fear or force, then you should not be convicted of extortion.
  1. False accusations. If your attorney can prove that you did not send or deliver a threatening letter and you were wrongly accused, then you should not be convicted of extortion.

 

FAQs Regarding Extortion

At Wallin & Klarich, we commonly receive questions from clients regarding extortion crimes under California Penal Code 518, 522, and 523. Some of these questions and their answers include:

  1. I never actually hurt or used force against the person I am accused of extorting. Can I still be convicted?

Yes. California law says that you do not have to force or injure a person for you to be convicted; the prosecution must only prove that you threatened to do so for you to be convicted.

  1. I tried to blackmail someone, but they didn’t give in. Can I be charged with extortion even though it didn’t work?

Yes. California Penal Code 524 makes it illegal to attempt to extort money or property even if the blackmail was unsuccessful.

  1. My roommate threatened to report my shoplifting to the police if l didn’t steal some things for her. Can she be convicted of extortion?

Yes. While your roommate has every right to inform the police about your shoplifting, she is threatening you so she can illegally obtain property. Thus, your roommate could be convicted of extortion in this case.

Charged with Extortion? Call Wallin & Klarich Today

partners 2015 - extortion
Contact the attorney at Wallin & Klarich today if you have been charged with extortion in California

If you or a loved one has been charged with extortion, it is crucial that you contact a Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately. The skilled attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending those charged with felony and misdemeanor extortion crimes. We will analyze the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the very best outcome possible in your case.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5425 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

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