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Extortion Crimes Law & Defense

PC 520, 523, & 524

Information on the crime of extortion is found at penal code sections 518, 520, and 524.

Extortion Defined: Extortion is defined as obtaining money or property from a victim, with the victim's consent, but where the victim's consent is obtained by the wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.

Note: Extortion is similar to, but slightly different than, blackmail. Blackmail is the threat of exposing information about the victim unless the victim pays money or performs some act that the victim is not otherwise legally obligated to perform. Neither the use of force or fear, nor the pretense of official right is necessarily present in blackmail; however, blackmail can be charged as extortion under California law because fear does not necessarily require a fear of physical harm (embarrassment will suffice).

 

Example: It is extortion for a person to demand money from a business owner in order for the business owner to avoid physical destruction of the business owner's business (without legal authority to destroy the business). On the other hand,  It is blackmail or Extortion when a defendant demands money from a victim with a threat that the defendant will reveal nude photos of the victim unless the victim pays the money demanded. With blackmail, there is not necessarily a threat of force against the victim or an act that pretends to be conducted under the color of authority.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of extortion, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:

  • Threatened, either to make an accusation about another person (or one of his family members), or threatened to expose a secret of another person

  • In order to obtain an item of value, such as money or property, or to have the threatened person commit some official act.

An official act is an act that a person does in his or her official capacity or by using the authority of his or her public office.

 

To use fear to extort another person means to:

  • Threaten to accuse another person of a crime, or

  • Threaten to expose another person to disgrace, or

  • Threaten to expose a secret of another person, or

  • Threaten to expose the immigration status of another person (PC 518 & 519).

Note: A threat, by itself, such as threatening another person to expose immigration status, threatening another person to reveal a secret, or threatening another person to accuse that person of committing a crime, is not extortion. The threat must accompany the request for money, property, or official action, to not expose the information that is the basis of the threat.

 

Sentence for Extortion

PC 518 & 520 Extortion, is charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony in California (wobbler). When PC 528 or 520 is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face up to one year in county jail. When PC 518 or 520 is charged as a felony, the defendant may face up to four years in prison.

PC 524 Attempted Extortion, is charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. When PC 524 is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face up to one year in jail. When PC 524 is charged as a felony, the defendant may face up to three years in prison.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision instead of jail or prison. Probation sentences are allowed in extortion cases, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not a defendant will be granted a probation sentence upon conviction for PC 518, 520, or 524, depends mostly on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. In some probation cases, the defendant will be ordered to serve an actual jail sentence or work release as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence (probation jail sentences are typically much shorter than non probation jail sentences).

PC 1170(h): If the defendant is not granted a probation sentence in a felony extortion case, then he or she will serve a sentence in prison (as opposed to a county jail), and no part of that prison sentence may be suspended or split.

Note: Extortion is not a strike offense under California's Three Strikes law unless the extortion is in connection with a criminal street gang allegation.

CIMT: The crimes of extortion and attempted extortion are considered crimes involving moral turpitude. This means that defendant's convicted of extortion crimes may face extra punishments with immigration or professional licensing concerns.

In addition to any jail or prison sentence, criminal convictions of PC 518, 520, or 524 can lead to other severe penalties and punishments, including: harsh probation or parole terms, monetary penalty fines & restitution, civil lawsuits and restraining orders, firearm prohibitions, and more.

 

Extortion Defenses

 

Common defenses to extortion crimes include: mistake of fact, insufficient evidence, coerced confessions, entrapment, statute of limitations, and more. 

If you have been charged with extortion, attempted extortion, or California Penal Codes 518, 520, or 524, contact our criminal defense lawyers today to learn your rights and options without delay.

909-913-3138

Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Attempt to Extort

Code: PC 524 (CalCrim No. 1830 et seq.)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 524 is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 524 may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony PC 524 prison sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation may be available in PC 524 cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

PC 1170(h)): No. Felony PC 524 is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that, unless the defendant is sentenced to probation, incarceration for a felony conviction must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.

Strike: PC 524 is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 524 is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility

​​

Firearms: Felony PC 524 convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $25,000 (San Bernardino County)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. This info is created for that purpose only; accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney/client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested or charged with a crime contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. 

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Related Crimes 

  • Attempted extortion PC 524 & PC 664/518

  • Extortion by written threat PC 523

  • Extortion by threat or force PC 518 & 519

  • Extortion against elder victim PC 518 & 525

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