Extortion – What Is It?
Extortion is a word we hear a lot in the movies, particularly those that involve the Mafia, but many people aren’t sure about its actual meaning. Other names for it include shakedown, outwrestling, exaction, or a protection racket. In the legal sense, extortion is defined as obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or business through the act of coercion, typically involving the threat of violence or property damage.
Extortion is often associated with organized crime groups such as gangs or cartels, though it certainly is not exclusive to organized crime. Typically, extortion involves a person or group offering protection from real or hypothetical threats in exchange for money. Often, however, the organization offering protection is usually the one that will cause harm if the money is not paid. They are really offering protection from themselves.
How Is Extortion Different from Robbery?
A robbery involves a person taking property from the victim via the immediate use of force, or the threat of imminent force. One distinction between extortion and robbery is that extortion takes place when a perpetrator explicitly states or implies that some harm will take place in the future if their demands are not met. Robbery does not require a threat, merely the taking of property. Another key distinction is that robbery only involves the taking of property, whereas extortion can include property and/or services. Also, with extortion, the victim gives the payment to the perpetrator as part of the bargain.
Extortion in Colorado is defined in CO Rev Stat § 18-3-207 (2016). Generally, extortion occurs when a “person, without legal authority and with the intent to induce another person against that other person’s will to perform an act or to refrain from performing a lawful act, making a substantial threat to confine or restrain, cause economic hardship or bodily injury to, or damage the property or reputation of, the threatened person or another person.”
Extortion can take place with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon. Merely the threat is enough to invoke criminal charges.
Blackmail is a type of extortion. In blackmail, the extortionist threatens to make public or share information that could be deemed embarrassing, socially damaging, or incriminating if a demand for money, property, and/or services is not met.
How Can Prosecutors Prove Extortion at Trial?
In order to meet the requirements for a charge of extortion, money or property does not actually have to be obtained by the accused. Simply making a threat of violence that is connected to a demand for payment is sufficient.
In general, there are four aspects to an extortion charge. First, it must be shown that the defendant made a threat. Second, the threat must be associated with an intent to exact some form of payment from the victim. Third, the threat must be shown to be capable of inducing fear in the victim (even if the threat was not ultimately received). And finally, the property or payment demanded by the threat must be shown to have some kind of value.
What Is Cyber Extortion?
Cyber extortion is a newer form of extortion that involves using a computer or the internet to couple an attack or threat of an attack with a demand for money or some other payment in exchange for stopping or repairing the attack. This can include ransomware attacks, in which the person locks the victim’s computer and offers to unlock the computer after a payment has been received. Other forms can include DDoS attacks or the threat of exposing confidential information that has been hacked from the victim’s computer or mobile device.
What Are the Penalties for Extortion?
Criminal extortion is a serious offense in Colorado. It is normally charged as a class 4 felony, with a conviction leading to 2-6 years in prison (along with 3 years of mandatory parole), and a fine of $2,000–$500,000. The penalties will increase significantly if the accused employs or possesses a deadly weapon while committing the crime, if the crime results in someone being killed or severely injured, or if the accused threatens the use of chemical, biological, or radioactive agents.
Being charged with extortion could be a life-altering event. It’s imperative that you take such charges seriously and secure the services of an experienced Colorado Springs extortion defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation today.