Experienced Extortion Defense Attorneys in San Diego
Extortion is when someone uses a threat or force to take or get something of value from another person. We most commonly see extortion on TV or in the movies but it can still be quite common in the actual courts. The most common example we see in the media would be as follows: A person has a very important job or is very well known. They are a public figure and their reputation is a big deal. They make a small mistake and they do something that they later regret. It could be having an affair, making a sex tape, a politically incorrect email or pictures of them doing something that the community would frown on. The person who has that information will likely say to public figure, if you do not give me some money I will release that information to the public. The idea of making a threat to another person for money is seen under the penal code as extortion.
Elements to prove Extortion
The elements to prove extortion are most commonly defined under California Penal Code 520. The elements go as follows:
- The defendant extorted money or property from another by a certain means.
- As a result of the threat the person consented to give the defendant something.
- The defendant actually received something after the threat was completed.
The first element of the threat can be done in three different ways. Here are some examples to better explain the different ways this can take place.
Example #1 – The threat was to injure the other person or use force. In this type of extortion, the two people know each other and one makes a threat to the other. The threat would be either I am hurt or kill you if you do not give me money or goods. This would be the first type of extortion threat.
Example #2 – The threat was to accuse another of a crime. In this type of situation the most common example would be someone who slept with a public figure or a celebrity. Now that person now says to them if you don’t give me a certain amount of money, I am going to tell the police that you raped me and hit me and that it was not consensual. That would be a threat to accuse another of a crime and that is the second type of threat that can be used as proof in an extortion case.
Example #3 – The third and last type of threat defined in the jury instructions is a threat to expose a secret. This one is the one that is most seen in movies and on television. Common situations would be affairs, or a threat to leak a sex tape or embarrassing pictures or emails. If you threaten to expose a secret and then ask of for money to not expose it, you could be arrested for extortion.
Those are the types of threats that can be given, the next two elements are pretty self explanatory. The person who is being threatened has to say to the defendant that they will give them something and then they actually have to come through and give them something for the crime to be committed. Often, when police are involved in extortion type negotiations and the person who is extorting does not know, the police will often offer a small amount of money to begin with as a down payment on it. They do this because once that money is received, then all the elements of the crime have been committed and they can move in for an arrest.
If the last element has not been met, then the person who committed this crime is not out of the clear. There is an actual penal code to make sure that they do not get away with it. Penal Code 524 is the code for attempted extortion. The legislature made this so that people cannot just say “well I didn’t actually follow through with it”. If you attempted to extort someone you could also be charged with this less serious felony.
Defenses to Extortion
The two most common defenses to extortion are lack of proof or a business transaction defense. Lack of proof, just as it sounds, is a lack of the elements needed to convict someone of a crime. Sometimes the threat is verbal and unrecorded which creates a situation where it is a classic he said, she said, type case. If the prosecutor does not have emails, text messages, or any recorded conversations, it makes it a much weaker case. The next common defense would be a business transaction defense. Creative criminal lawyers in San Diego can recognize when a business transaction defense is possible. Often times someone may have a type or video or pictures of someone else and was simply just asking them if they wanted to purchase them. This would not be seen as extortion because instead of making a threat, the person is just making an offer to the other person to buy their merchandise.
If you have been charged with extortion it is crucial that you hire an expert who has handled these types of cases to go through the evidence and to evaluate the prosecution’s case. If this type of case has been filed against you, then the prosecution has probably had months building their case. That is why it is so imperative so speak to a San Diego criminal lawyer immediately and see what your options are.