Sexual extortion, often called sextortion, could technically involve all types of exploitation, but the acts covered by California law involve blackmailing someone by threatening to release their nude or otherwise sexually explicit images or videos. It doesn’t matter if the blackmail is an attempt to extort money, sexual favors or an other type of property, the crime is the same as those charges filed under the traditional extortion law.
Penalties for Sextortion
Sextortion carries the same penalties as other forms of extortion, meaning this felony offense is punishable by 2 to 4 years in prison and an attempt to commit this crime can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, resulting in 1 to 3 years in jail or prison.
If the defendant is found guilty of actually sharing the victim’s private images or photos, he may also be charged with violating the state revenge porn law as well. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail.
That being said, courts tend to look particularly harshly on acts involving the exploitation of someone in a sexual manner. This means that whether you have been accused of asking for money, sexual favors or any other type of compensation in exchange for not sharing sexually explicit materials of someone, you are likely to face a more harsh sentence than someone could face for a similar form of extortion that does not involve someone’s most intimate moments.
When the Victim is a Minor
It’s worth mentioning that many victims of this crime are under California’s legal age of consent, which happens to be 18. In fact, the average age for those victimized by this type of blackmail is only 15, meaning many victims are even younger.
This means that many people charged with sextortion will also face charges for child pornography possession and possibly other sex crimes related to their activities, which could involve child molestation and the distribution of child pornography. Notably, while neither sextortion and revenge porn require someone to register on the sex offender list, anyone convicted of the sexual abuse of a child or any crime related to child pornography will be required to register.
In these cases, it is particularly important for those accused of the crime to always refrain from speaking with the police without their attorney present because it is very easy to accidentally say something that can hurt your case.
Fighting the Accusations
Because these cases are particularly tricky and often involve quite a bit of digital evidence detailing the specific messages a suspect has sent to the victim over the internet or via cell phone, in many cases the best defense is to simply argue that the police violated the defendant’s 4th amendment rights against illegal search and seizure when they went through his home, phone or other personal property.
While it maybe tempting to try to explain this away to the police by claiming someone else was hacking your devices, you are probably digging a deeper hole because forensic evaluation of your phone or computer may disprove this. It is always advisable to first retain a lawyer before ever discussing your case with the police. Any substantive defense you may have can always be shown to the police by your lawyer without you speaking to them in person.