Movies and crime novels often use extortion and blackmail as a primary plot point. While this act may be entertaining in the realm of fiction, reality is far more bleak. According to California Penal Code 518, extortion, which is often referred to as blackmail, is when any person attempts to gain financial rewards by using threats or some other action to compel one person to deliver a set amount of money. While there are many different scenarios and reasons as to why a defendant may be charged under PC 518, a professional legal team is capable of outlining, and defending, your case.
Elements of California Penal Code 518
While the concept of extortion may seem cut-and-dry, there are many scenarios that make convicting this action difficult. In order to better understand this process, it’s important to clarify basic scenarios that may result in an extortion charge:
- The defendant is charged with using threats or physical force to persuade another person to give them money, objects or property.
- The defendant is charged with making threats or using physical force to convince a public officer to perform a specific act, such as blackmailing a police officer so he does not go after a particular criminal.
- If the defendant is a public official who uses his influence to compel a person to give them money or property. For example, a police officer threatens to arrest you on real or fraudulent charges if you don’t agree to pay a certain amount of money.
Because of the complex nature of this charge, it’s easy to become confused. In an attempt to demystify this process, the following are common scenarios in which a defendant may be charged under California Penal Code 518:
- A robber breaks into your home and threatens to kill you or your family if you don’t provide him with keys to your vehicle and all valuables within your home. Along with being charged with burglary, the robber would also face an extortion charge.
- A restaurant owner threatens to expose a hidden secret from a city council member if he doesn’t sign off on all permits, even though the restaurant owner hasn’t taken the necessary steps to legally receive his permits.
- Your roommate threatens to accuse you of rape if you don’t give her money.
Although the aforementioned are very simple examples of extortion, it’s easy to see this criminal act does not simply require one party to demand money from the other. The bottom line: extortion can happen if any person threatens to cause financial, personal or social harm to another individual unless they meet the demands of the extortionist.
Defending a Penal Code 518 Charge
Due to the complex nature of such charges, it’s important to hire an experienced extortion defense attorney. While the stance of your defense team will vary according to case specifics, the following are common defenses that may be used:
- False Accusations – Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for someone to say you blackmailed them in exchange for money or some other service. Establishing a false accusation may seem difficult, but a professional defense team knows how to uncover the truth within any scenario.
- Lack of Coercion – While an exchange of money or property may have happened, your defense team will gather any evidence that showcases this exchange was not a result of extortion or blackmail, but rather consensual between both parties.
- Insufficient Evidence – Even though the plaintiff may claim he was extorted by the defendant, most cases have insufficient evidence to prove without a doubt the defendant engaged in blackmail activities. A professional extortion attorney knows exactly what evidence stands up in court, and what evidence is nothing more than exaggerated slander.
While an extortion charge is a serious offense, with a potential penalty of two to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, a professional legal team with experience dealing with extortion cases has the knowledge and ability to prevent false convictions.