Blackmail, which is covered by California’s extortion laws, is a serious crime that can result in major penalties. If you have been accused of blackmailing someone, it is critical you contact an extortion lawyer in San Diego as soon as possible to help you fight the charges. Remember that anything you say to police could be used against you later, even if it’s something you said to help defend yourself.
Is Blackmail a Crime in California?
Yes, but the blackmail laws in California fall under the more broad category of extortion. Extortion involves one person using force or threats to compel someone else to give up money or property or to get a public official to perform an official act. The extortion must include the unlawful injury or use of force against a victim or the victim’s property, the accusation of a person of a crime or the exposure of a secret involving the victim or his or her family members.
This covers a wide range of criminal acts as it could include someone threatening to harm someone else’s family member if they don’t pay a ransom fee or could include someone threatening to expose a district attorney’s infidelity if she moves forward in pressing charges against an accused drug dealer. Alternatively, someone could threaten to destroy a collector’s prized Picasso painting if she refuses to hand over her diamonds. Or a woman could threaten to accuse her ex of rape if he doesn’t give her his truck.
It’s worth noting that in cases involving great bodily harm to a victim for the purposes of extortion, suspects may also face torture charges.
Penalties for Extortion and Blackmail
Extortion and blackmail are almost always felony crimes in California. Penalties may include up to four years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Additionally, victims of extortion may sue to recover damages for their losses.
In cases where the attempt to extort the victim were unsuccessful, attempted extortion charges may be brought up. This charge is different than that for most attempted crimes in California. Although the penalty for attempted crimes is generally half of what it would be if the crime was actually completed, when it comes to attempted extortion, the crime may be a felony or misdemeanor. If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If charged as a felony, the maximum penalty is three years in prison and $10,000 in fines. As you can see, it is very important to speak with a lawyer experienced in fighting blackmail charges if you have been accused of even attempted extortion.
If torture charges are brought up because the victim suffered serious bodily harm as a result of the extortion, then the defendant will face a life sentence.
Defenses to Extortion
Like all crimes, you can fight the charges if you have been accused of extortion or attempted extortion. Sometimes your best course of action is to negotiate a plea bargain that will minimize the potential penalty you face. In other cases, you may want to plead innocent.
Sometimes the real victim is actually the person accused of the crime. For example, a man in an ugly divorce with his wife may claim that she threatened to claim he raped her if he didn’t give her his truck, but in reality, he was trying to get her to give up her claim to their pet dog. False accusations are a common defense to extortion charges.
Another common defense is that there is simply too little evidence to prove the charges. After all, one person’s word that you extorted them isn’t enough to prove your guilt. That being said, police will often claim they have more evidence than they actually do in order to extract a confession from a suspect, something your blackmail defense attorney in San Diego can help protect you from.
If you have been accused of extortion or attempted extortion, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
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