Review of Penal Code 518 PC Extortion Charges and Defenses
California Penal Code 518 PC describes the felony crime of extortion as when a person uses force or threats to compel someone to give them money or property, or to compel a public officer to perform an official act.
PC 518 extortion is also commonly called the crime of “blackmail,” and punishable by up to four years in a California state prison if convicted.
When extortion comes to mind, most people think about organized crime or corrupt politicians.
But extortion is much more common than you might think, often occurring between private individuals.
Particularly with the rise of social media and the ability to disseminate information quickly and easily, threats to publish private or potentially humiliating information are common.
What's considered extortion in California, and what penalties are you facing if you're charged with this white collar crime?
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will answer these questions below.
What Is Penal Code 518 PC Extortion?
California Penal Code 518 PC defines extortion as follows:
- “(a) Extortion is obtaining of property or other consideration from another, with their consent, or obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”
Extortion, also known as blackmail, is trying to get tangible property from someone by threatening violence against them, their loved ones, or their business.
Extortion may also involve threatening to reveal private or embarrassing information about someone unless they consent to give over some form of property.
You can be arrested, charged, and convicted of extortion even if you never actually caused any of injuries, or used force against the victim. In other words, making the threats to do so is all that is necessary.
However, the threat has to be the primary reason the victim gave consent. Extortion is a felony crime in the state of California.
Subjects of extortion can be private individuals or government officials. Government officials can also face an extortion charge if they threaten to wrongfully withhold or provide some service.
Examples of Extortion
- threatening to report someone's crime to the police unless they pay you a sum of money;
- threatening to expose private information about a public official unless they vote a certain way on a proposal;
- having an affair with your boss and threatening to report them for rape unless they double your salary.
Under California Penal Code 522 PC, it's also a crime to get someone's signature through blackmail or extortion.
Penal Code 523 PC makes it a crime to commit extortion by sending a threatening letter as well.
Penal Code 526 PC makes it a crime to commit extortion by a fake court order.
Other related crimes include Penal Code 211 robbery and Penal Code 67 bribery. Commercial bribery is defined under Penal Code 641.3 PC.
Penalties for Extortion in California
Extortion under Penal Code 518 is a felony, punishable by a state prison sentence of up to four years. You may also have a maximum fine of $10,000.
If you're a non-U.S. citizen, extortion could jeopardize your immigration status.
California considers extortion a “crime of moral turpitude,” which can get you deported or make you inadmissible for entry into the U.S.
Furthermore, an extortion conviction cannot be expunged from your criminal record as you can't expunge crimes that you served prison time for.
Defenses for PC 518 Extortion Charges
To convict someone of extortion, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime under CALCRIM 1830:
- the defendant made a threat against someone else, either to unlawfully injure them, accuse them of a crime, or expose their secret;
- the defendant used fear or force to obtain the person's consent to giving over money, property or performing an official act;
- the threatened person consented to the defendant's demands due to the use of fear or force;
- the threatened person complied with the defendant's demands due to the use of fear or force.
To defend an extortion charge, our criminal defense attorneys may use one of the following three legal strategies:
- you did not use force or fear: extortion involves the use of force and threats. We may try to prove that you didn't use force or fear to compel someone else to give you property or do something for you;
- you were falsely accused: someone might accuse you of blackmail because of jealously, revenge, or ill will. We might be able to make an argument that you're not guilty of extortion at all;
- the victim didn't perform the act they consented to. for the crime to be extortion, the threatened person must have carried out the act they agreed to—whether it was giving money or property or performing some official act. If the victim didn't go through with the act, you might not be convicted of extortion. You may, however, be guilty of attempted extortion under California Penal Code 524 PC.
Criminal Defense for Extortion Cases
If you have questions about extortion or defending yourself from this charge, you should contact our qualified criminal defense lawyers right away.
If you're accused of extortion or blackmail in California, you should strongly consider getting legal help with your case. Trying to handle such a severe charge on your own may not result in a favorable outcome.
Extortion is a serious crime that has adverse and far-reaching consequences.
We might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced to a lesser offense, or even a case dismissal.
Further, early intervention by our law firm could result in convincing the prosecutor from filing formal charges through prefiling intervention.
The experienced team of defense attorneys at Eisner Gorin understand the nuances and gravity of an extortion case. As former Los Angeles County prosecutors, we know how they will attempt to build a case against you.
Contact our law office for an initial consultation to learn how we can help you. Call our firm at (310) 328-3776 or contact us online.