Criminal extortion or blackmail is a major offense that can land you in federal or state court — or both. It is a serious offense that can pop up every time someone runs your background check. This means that potential employers may not want you working in their organization. Potential landlords may not want you on their property. Potential romantic partners may view your conviction as a red flag and end your romance before it even gets started.

When you are charged with a crime, it is a very serious matter. The criminal court system is difficult to navigate and the laws can be very complex. Whether it’s federal or state court, it’s going to be tough. Your best bet is to address the issue early and secure the best legal counsel at the very beginning.

If you are facing a criminal extortion or blackmail charge, you need an attorney who will step up and do everything he can to make sure you get the best outcome possible and that your rights are protected. You need the experience and skill of The Litvak Law Firm.

Mr. Litvak has the knowledge, experience, and skill that you need in a criminal defense attorney. He will work hard for you, making sure that your rights are not violated. He will make sure that the outcome of your case is the best it can be. 

He and his team will listen to you, research your case, and build a defense strategy that could mean a lessened sentence or an acquittal.

Overview of Criminal Extortion or Blackmail

Criminal extortion or blackmail is committed when one person threatens another in an effort to gain something of value. This can be money or it could be something else that is of value, including non-tangible benefits.

This means that extortion and/or blackmail is the criminal conduct of demanding something from a person, such as money or non-tangible items that are valuable like secrets or information. It can also mean a person who makes demands or tries to coerce a person into doing something or not doing something like not reporting a crime. 

This crime can be both federal or state, depending on certain factors.

Federal Criminal Extortion or Blackmail Offenses

Many people refer to the federal crime of extortion as blackmail.  Both terms mean essentially the same thing. Blackmail is an older term but it is still in use. Extortion is the term that is now typically used. 

Laws that deal with federal criminal extortion and blackmail include:

  • 18 USC §871 – Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
  • 18 USC §873 – Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing is breaking the law.
  • 18 USC §875 – It is unlawful to:
    • (a)Transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any demand or request for a ransom or reward for the release of any kidnapped person.
    • (b) Acts with intent with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.
    • (c) Transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.
    • (d) Acts with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime.

Basically, if you demand something, take something, or make someone believe you will hurt them if they don’t do what you tell them, and you do this against a person to prevent them from informing the government as to any violation of US law, you could find yourself facing a major conviction. 

New York Criminal Extortion or Blackmail Offenses

Under New York law, it is a serious crime to threaten someone to obtain something of value from them — money or something else. Doing so can cause you to be charged with blackmail or larceny by extortion.

Whenever you obtain property from another person by force or coercion or by making them fear that they will be seriously injured by you or that you will expose a secret, damage their property, or commit other criminal acts, then you can be charged with blackmail, also known as extortion. The statute provides several acts that can be included as ways a person can force or compel someone to do what they want.

Several state laws deal with this:

  • New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law – PEN § 155.05(2) – Grand Larceny Defined – A person is guilty of grand larceny by extortion in the second degree when he steals property and when:
    • A person obtains property by extortion when he compels or induces another person to deliver such property to himself or to a third person by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered, the actor or another will:
      • (i) Cause physical injury to some person in the future; or
      • (ii) Cause damage to property; or
      • (iii) Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
      • (iv) Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him; or
      • (v) Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
      • (vi) Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person’s business; except that such a threat shall not be deemed extortion when the property is demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or
      • (vii) Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
      • (viii) Use or abuse his position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely; or 
      • (ix) Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.
  • New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law – PEN § 155.40(2) Grand larceny by extortion in the second degree – A person is guilty of grand larceny in the second degree when he steals property and when
    • The property, regardless of its nature and value, is obtained by extortion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that the actor or another person will 
      • (a) cause physical injury to some person in the future, or 
      • (b) cause damage to property, or 
      • (c) use or abuse his position as a public servant by engaging in conduct within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.

Penalties for Federal Criminal Extortion or Blackmail

The penalties for criminal extortion or blackmail can be significant. Each offense has not only jail time as a punishment, but it also includes fines. You could find yourself facing twenty years or more. 

The defendant:

  • 18 USC §873 – Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
  • 18 USC §875 – This penalty for breaking the federal law concerning this law:
    • (a) Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
    • (b) Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
    • (c) Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
    • (d) Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Penalties for Criminal Extortion or Blackmail in New York

Defenses for Criminal Extortion or Blackmail

There are several defenses that your attorney may try. The precise ones will depend upon certain factors for the case. Every case is different.

  • Lack of intent to commit a crime
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Methods for collecting the evidence
  • Absence of fear, force, or threat used to induce consent
  • Factual innocence
  • Belief in the threat was unreasonable.
  • Lack of threatening harm
  • Intoxication (alcohol, illegal substance, legal substance)
  • Mentally incapable

A person who is being blackmailed must hold a reasonable belief that the threat against them is real. The goal is to have the case reduced or dismissed. Your attorney will fight for you, doing all they can to cast a shadow of a doubt in the minds of the judge or the jurors.

Being charged with blackmail and extortion is a very serious matter. You can be required to pay steep fines and even spend time behind bars. A blackmail charge is tough to manage. That is why it is best to get good legal counsel as early in your case as possible.

And when you are looking for an attorney, experience counts.

Blackmail and extortion can be committed across the country or around the world. Finding a federal attorney or a New York lawyer as early as possible increases your chances for a favorable outcome.

Igor Litvak of the Litvak Law Firm has the education, knowledge, and experience to handle your case and make sure that you get the representation that you deserve. Call today at (718) 989-2908 to get the help you need fast.