San Diego Extortion Defense Attorney

Being accused of extortion can make you feel like a victim of extortion yourself. The stress and stigma of an extortion charge can be nerve-wracking, and a guilty verdict could do irreparable damage to your personal and professional life.

The criminal defense team at the Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline can defend your case with the experience, knowledge and tenacity that could be the difference between a life-altering conviction and your name being cleared.

If you or a loved one has been accused of extortion, contact us online or call us today at (619) 235-5638 for a free evaluation of your case. San Diego is a close-knit community, and our legal team is always willing to help you defend your reputation and protect your career.

Legal Definition of Extortion

Extortion is the crime of coercing someone into providing money, property or services they would not be compelled to otherwise. It is mostly associated with physical violence, but the definition of extortion also includes the threat of property damage, criminal accusations, harm to reputation or even unfavorable government action.

Extortion is a felony in all states, and punishment for extortion can mean extreme penalties in California. Conviction on extortion charges could mean years in prison or thousands of dollars in fines, and even an accusation of the crime can be disastrous to your professional life.

The extortion attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline have the knowledge and experience to defend you against these accusations, and to preserve your name and your freedom.

Elements That Constitute Extortion in California

California extortion laws cover a wide range of scenarios, all of which include using immediate or implied force to influence a person’s actions.

State Penal Code Sections 518 and 527 describe these elements as:

  • The use of threat or force to compel someone into giving you money or property
  • The use of threat or force to compel a public officer into performing an official act
  • The use of threat or force as a public officer to compel someone to give you money or property

Even if you believe you have a legitimate right to money or property, you can still be charged under California extortion laws. Using force or threats to make a person do or give you something is illegal in all circumstances.

You do not have to actually receive or accept anything to be charged with extortion. Just the threat can lead to serious felony charges that may damage your reputation or business.

Because California extortion law is so broad, it is easy to make accusations – even unfairly or falsely – and the penalties are severe. It’s important you have an extortion lawyer with experience fighting these charges to defend your livelihood and clear your name.

Penalties for Extortion in San Diego

Extortion cases are usually prosecuted as a felony, and the consequences can vary depending on the nature of the threat.

  • Threats not involving a deadly weapon can carry up to four years behind bars and/or up to $10,000 in fines for first-time offenders.
  • Extortion punishment may be more severe for persons who have previously been convicted of similar felonies, with maximum jail terms as high as 35 years.

Threats with a deadly weapon that were not immediately present or apparent (such as over the phone or electronic communication) are classified as “non-dangerous” felonies, and first offenses carry up to 12½ years in prison.

  • Threats with a deadly weapon that were enforced through exposure of the weapon or its actual use on a person are classified as a class two (2) “dangerous” felony, and carry a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison for first-offenders.

Under Penal Code 523 (PC), money, services or property do not have to be received, and the threat does not have to be carried out, for someone to be accused of extortion.

Legal Defenses Against California Extortion Charges

Our extortion attorneys know how to fight against these charges. We will fight to have these charges dropped to restore your life and career back to normal. We are also experienced in negotiating lesser charges, and our attorneys have formidable trial skills should a trial be the best option.

Here are some strategies our attorneys can pursue:

  1. You did not attempt to force the accuser into providing money, property or services. You may be the victim of a simple misunderstanding, or a misinterpretation of your words, actions or intent.
  2. The accuser willingly consented to provide money, property or services without force or coercion. Your accuser could have willingly agreed to provide the goods in question, and then changed his or her mind or have been erroneously convinced by others that what occurred was extortion.
  3. There is insufficient evidence to support the accusation. Evidence that you attempted to coerce or compel someone into action could be too weak or circumstantial to support a conviction. Remember: it is the job of the prosecution to prove you are guilty, not your job to prove you are innocent.
  4. You were falsely accused of the charge. You may be the victim of a malicious accuser who fabricated the allegations.

California Penal Code Section 518 also extends to situations in which the money or property in question belongs to you, so even a legitimate right to something does not exempt you from being accused of or charged with extortion.

In examples like these, our extortion lawyers will make a “lawful claim” defense to prove that you were acting within your rights to obtain property or goods that are lawfully yours.

Stephen Cline is a San Diego defense attorney with 20 years of experience representing people charged with all sorts of crimes, including extortion. If you or a loved one faces this charge, call us today at (619) 235-5638 for a free evaluation of your case. You can’t wait. You need an attorney working your case as soon as possible.

Extortion FAQs

What is the Difference Between Extortion and Blackmail?

Blackmail occurs when an offender threatens to reveal embarrassing or incriminating information about the victim if the offender’s demands are not met. Extortion primarily involves the threat of physical violence, destruction of property or harmful use of official or public influence to adversely affect a victim’s life. Both crimes are defined as felonies under the statute of California Extortion and Blackmail Law (Section 518 PC).

What is the Difference Between Extortion and Embezzlement?

 According to California Penal Code Section 503, embezzlement occurs when all three of the following elements are present:

  1. An offender moves, hides or converts property or assets owned by someone else for their own personal use, with the intention for the change to be permanent.
  2. The offender is in a position of trust, and is given possession of the property or assets by the rightful owner in good faith.
  3. The owner is unaware of the crime’s progress or completion.

Extortion may only be charged in cases where the victim is aware that a crime is being committed and is being directly influenced or coerced by the offender into providing money, property or services.

Through What Channels Can Extortion Take Place?

Extortion commonly occurs in person, but can also happen over telephone, mail, email, text, instant message or any other electronic or wireless communication.

Does Extortion Only Include Threats to Me or My Business?

No. Under Penal Code Section 519, extortion also applies to threats made to your friends or relatives, and their businesses or well-being.

Do Extortion Charges Differ in Severity Depending on the Victim?

Yes. Section 525 PC describes extortion targeting elderly or dependent persons as an aggravated circumstance that will be considered when imposing a sentence upon conviction.