What is extortion? In Texas, extortion is a crime that’s charged like theft—even though it’s not always what comes to mind when people normally think of stealing. Instead of going behind someone’s back to simply steal something (theft), breaking into their home or business (burglary) or holding them at gunpoint and demanding their property (a type of robbery), extortion uses threats or coercion to get someone to hand their property over.
Whether you’ve been charged with extortion or you’re simply interested in how the law works, read on for an overview of the crime and its potential punishment.
What is the legal definition of extortion in Texas?
Texas treats extortion as theft by coercion. In other words, it occurs when a person uses threats of violence, property damage, harm to reputation or “unfavorable government action” to unlawfully take property. It includes blackmail, which is the threat to reveal damaging information unless the victim complies with the demand. For example, extortion could include someone in law enforcement threatening to arrest you for a crime you didn’t commit, unless you pay them a certain amount of money.
Extortion might also look like a person threatening to tell a spouse about an affair unless they sign their new car over to them. The key is that the person is using threats to unlawfully gain access to the property.
You might wonder how using threats of violence is different than a robbery at gunpoint. It’s true that both of them involve someone threatening bodily harm or death if the victim doesn’t cooperate—but robbery includes an imminent threat, while extortion relies on threats of future violence.
Extortion can be committed in person or over the phone and internet—it doesn’t have to be in person to qualify.
What are the defenses to and consequences for extortion?
If you’ve been charged with extortion, there are three possible defenses. First, it was a mistake—you were misunderstood, you weren’t the person extorting the victim or there’s another type of confusion. Second, you can argue that you lacked the intent to deprive the person of their property. Finally, the owner of the property may have voluntarily consented to give you the property.
Extortion is a felony in Texas—unless the value of the property is under $50. In that case, it’s a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. Otherwise, you can be punished with prison time and significant fines. For example, if you extorted goods valued at $200,000 or more, you could pay fines up to $10,000 and be sentenced to five to 99 years in prison. Texas takes extortion law very seriously, so it’s smart to steer clear of anything that could remotely be considered illegal.
If you’ve been accused of extortion, it’s vitally important that you speak with a defense attorney right away. Reach out to The Law Office of Rob Biggers today for a consultation. We have experience with extortion law in Texas, and look forward to discussing the particulars of your situation.
**This Blog/Website is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog/website you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.**
Categorised in: Criminal Law