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Extortion

California Penal Code 518 P.C.

Extortion (also sometimes referred to as “blackmail”) is the obtaining of money or property from another by force, threat of force, or intimidation.

What is an Extortion Charge?

Under California Penal Code 518 P.C., you can be charged with Extortion if you allegedly “blackmailed” or otherwise unlawfully obtained another person’s money or property by the wrongful threat or use of force or fear or authority (if you were a police officer, for example). To be convicted, you need not actually have taken the money or property. Extortion is a specific intent crime, meaning that you specifically intended that the alleged victim be placed in fear.

Extortion can be verbally communicated or transmitted through written or electronic means. If the threat is in writing, you will be charged under California Penal Code 523 P.C. You can also be charged with Extortion if you merely allegedly threatened to damage or destroy the property of the alleged victim.

In addition to a threat of force, you can be charged with Extortion if you allegedly threatened the alleged victim or his/her family member or relative, for the purpose of obtaining his/her money or property, with: (a) exposing a secret; (b) accusing the alleged victim of a crime; or (c) exposing the alleged victim with a disgrace, deformity, or anything else that would expose him/her to public ridicule, scorn or contempt.

What are Examples of Extortion?

Examples of situations involving Extortion include the following:

  • You offered a local business owner “protection” services, but explained that if he didn’t pay, he would “risk” his store being burned down.
  • You held a screwdriver to a dog’s throat and told its owner to hand over her purse “or else”.
  • You threatened to release humiliating photos of your movie star ex-girlfriend unless she deeded her condominium to you.
  • You sent evidence of your fellow board member’s sexual harassment of his secretary and promised to “out” him to the rest of the board of directors if he didn’t vote in your favor on an upcoming resolution.
  • You told your next door neighbor that you would call the police and accuse him of exposing himself to you if he didn’t grant to you a contested portion of your shared property line.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for an Extortion Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of Extortion under California Penal Code 518 P.C., the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 1830):

  • You threatened to unlawfully injure or use force against another person or against the property of another person; or
  • You threatened to accuse another person or that person’s relative or family member of a crime; or
  • You threatened to expose a secret about, or to disgrace, another person or his or her relative or family member;
  • When making the threat or using that force, you intended to use that threat or force to obtain the victim’s consent to give you money or property, or to perform an official act; and
  • As a result of the threat or use of force, the victim then gave you the money or property, or performed the official act.

What Happens If I am Convicted of an Extortion Charge?

If you are convicted of Extortion under California Penal Code 518 P.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • Two, three, or four years in prison (California Penal Code 520 P.C.). Sentencing enhancements apply if, for example, you threatened an elderly person or an individual who is mentally or physically disabled, or the threat was made in connection with your association or membership in a criminal organization; and
  • A maximum fine of $10,000;
  • Victim restitution (if applicable);
  • Possible loss of ability to obtain or maintain a professional license, loss of employment or educational opportunities, or adverse immigration consequences (if applicable).

What are My Possible Defenses to an Extortion Charge?

Extortion cases can often be resolved during the investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Extortion attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, or to convince the D.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Extortion, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of unintentional conduct, or that the District Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Extortion.

The following are the possible defenses to an Extortion charge:

  • Lack of threat or force. You did not actually apply or threaten use of force.
  • Consent. you had the alleged victim’s lawful consent to take the money or property or otherwise did not take the money or property against his or her will.
  • Lack of specific intent. At the time of the incident, you did not have the specific intent to make the alleged threat to obtain money, property, or the performance of an official act.
  • Lack of color of authority. You were not acting under “color of authority” at the time of the incident (if, for example, you were a police officer).
  • Lack of receipt of money, property, or performance of official act. Despite making the threat, you did not actually receive any of these benefits.
  • Lack of fear. Despite making the threat, you did not actually place the alleged victim in fear.
  • False accusations. The alleged victim or supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who committed the alleged extortion. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Extortion Cases Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented many clients against Extortion charges.

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If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Extortion criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).

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