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Extortion by Force or Threat

Most people are aware that using force to extort money or to convince a person to perform an act against his or her will is unlawful. However, according to state law, a person can be charged with extortion even if he or she only made threats. The penalties for being convicted of extortion can have life changing consequences, requiring defendants to spend years in prison or pay thousands of dollars worth of fines, so if you are being investigated for extortionate activities, you should strongly consider consulting with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can ensure that you are not wrongly charged and convicted.

Making a Threat

Under state law, Florida residents are prohibited from either verbally or by a printed or written communication taking the following actions:

  • Maliciously threatening to accuse someone else of a crime;
  • Maliciously threatening another person with physical injury, property damage, or injury to his or her reputation;
  • Maliciously threatening to expose someone else to disgrace;
  • Maliciously threatening to expose another person’s secret; and
  • Maliciously threatening to impute a lack of chastity to someone else.

Before these actions will be considered extortionate in nature, the person making the threat must have the intent to:

  • Extort money or a pecuniary advantage; or
  • Compel someone else to commit or refrain from committing an act against his or her will.

Essentially, the threat of harm to another person is an essential element of extortion and could include everything from physical or financial harm to an abuse of official power or property destruction. Furthermore, while Florida law does require that a defendant had the intent to gain something from the threat, it does not require that the person actually intended to carry out the threat or even had the ability to do so.

Types of Extortion

There are actually a number of different types of extortion. For example, one of the most common forms of extortion involves a promise to refrain from taking a harmful action in exchange for payment. In these cases, no actual threat needs to be made as it is implied by the parties’ actions. Extortion that occurs on a large scale, such as extortion performed by an organization can be prosecuted under federal racketeering law, but only if interstate communications were used to make the threat. There are also separate requirements for public officers who are charged with extortion. In these cases, the officer must actually take money or gain financially from a threat before he or she can be convicted.

Extortion can be classified as a property crime. However, unlike crimes such as robbery, which involves the use of verbal and non-verbal threats of immediate force to obtain property, extortion requires a defendant to communicate a threat, either verbally or through writing. There must also be a clear connection between the threat and the demand. This is quite different from the elements of robbery, which can be satisfied by the mere brandishing of a weapon.

Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Dedicated White Collar Crime Lawyer

To speak with an experienced attorney about your own pending extortion charges, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at (305) 670-9919 today. Our Miami legal team is ready to help you today.

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