Attempted Extortion Law in California - Penal Code 524 PC
Under California law, it is illegal to extort someone or attempt to extort them. Extortion involves using a threat of force against someone to get that individual to hand over money or property. Attempted extortion is an incomplete act of extortion; even though the perpetrator is not successful in obtaining money or property through a threat, it is still criminal to attempt it.
California Penal Code 524 PC is the statute that makes it a crime to attempt, by means of threats, to extort property or money from someone. If the person successfully obtains the property or money, they will face criminal charges of extortion under Penal Code 518 PC.
PC 524 attempted extortion is legally defined as “anyone who attempts by any threat specified under Penal Code 519 to extort property or other consideration from another person is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not longer than one year or in the state prison or by fine not greater than $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.”
For prosecutors to successfully convict someone of attempted extortion, they must prove that the accused:
- Attempted to extort money or property from someone, and
- Used a threat in attempting.
In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, we will examine this theft-related offense in more detail below.
What Are Some Examples of Attempted Extortion?
The simple intent to commit extortion is not enough for an attempt charge unless there is a direct action to accomplish the crime. The act itself is usually the legal issue within the case. Further, arranging the means necessary to commit the crime is not enough.
There is no legal requirement that the victim suffers any fear in their mind as long as the threat is of a nature that might reasonably have that result. Someone is guilty of making threats, whether directed at the victim or against someone else. Examples of Penal Code 524 PC attempted extortion include:
- Threatening to expose individuals cheating on their spouse if a certain sum of money is not paid, and the money is never paid;
- Threatening to harm an individual's family member if a certain sum of money is not paid, but the money goes unpaid;
- Threatening to expose an embarrassing secret about an individual if a certain sum of money is not paid, but the individual refuses to pay.
What are the Potential Penalties for a PC 524 Conviction?
Attempted extortion is a wobbler offense, a criminal charge that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. If an alleged act of attempted extortion is charged as a misdemeanor, then a conviction can carry:
- up to one year in the county jail,
- a fine up to $10,000.
If an alleged act of attempted extortion is charged as a felony, then a conviction can carry:
- up to three years in California state prison,
- a fine up to $10,000.
Readers should note that the judge can impose probation rather than jail time for a misdemeanor or felony conviction.
Can this Crime Be Expunged?
Yes, it is possible to expunge a criminal conviction for attempted extortion as long as you are eligible. Eligibility to be granted an expungement is determined by whether the defendant completed probation or a jail term imposed by the court.
Suppose a defendant spent time incarcerated after a conviction. In that case, they are eligible to seek expungement only if the time would have been served in county jail under the new rules regarding “Realignment” under Proposition 47.
What Are Some Related Offenses?
In California, several state offenses are related to attempted extortion under PC 524; they are extortion, extortion by court order, or attempted crimes. They are defined below.
Penal Code 518 PC – Extortion. This California law prohibits various forms of blackmail and is the completed attempt of extortion. If someone threatens someone and compels that individual to hand over money or property based on that threat, then the person who made the threat is guilty of extortion.
Penal Code 526 PC – Extortion by Fake Court Order. This law prohibits someone from using a fake court order to threaten someone or compel them to hand over money or property based on the threat of the fake court order. If an individual makes the threat but does not receive any money or property from the threat, the individual is guilty of attempted extortion by fake court order.
Penal Code 664 PC – Attempted crimes. This California law prohibits the attempt of any criminal act. If an individual tries to commit a crime but falls short of doing so, the individual's attempt is generally its criminal charge with its criminal penalties. As discussed in this article, attempted extortion is an example of an attempted crime.
There are some other theft-related crimes for attempted extortion, such as:
- Penal Code 422 PC - criminal threats,
- Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft,
- Penal Code 484(a) – petty theft,
- Penal Code 496(a) – receiving stolen property.
What Are the Best Legal Defenses for Penal Code 524 PC?
If someone is facing an attempted extortion charge, several defenses can be employed; some examples include arguments that:
- No threats were made against the complainant,
- The complainant is making a false accusation,
- The defendant was entrapped into committing attempted extortion.
Entrapment involves an allegation that the defendant only attempted to commit the alleged crime because they were lured to doing so by law enforcement. You will need to show how law enforcement enticed you to commit the crime alleged to be successful in this defense.
For a no threat defense, recall from above that you can only be found guilty of violating Penal Code 524 if you attempted to extort property from someone by means of threats. Perhaps we could make a reasonable argument that you didn't threaten anyone.
For a false allegation defense, it's not uncommon for someone to get falsely accused of a crime. The accuser is motivated by anger, jealousy, or revenge in many cases. Perhaps we can show evidence that you were unjustly accused of attempted extortion, or there is insufficient evidence to make a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
To fully understand your best defense, make sure you speak to an experienced attorney. Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or a case dismissal. Even better, through early prefiling negotiations with law enforcement and the District Attorney, perhaps we can convince them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.”
The top-rated criminal defense law firm of Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County and serves people across the state of California. You can reach us for an initial case consultation at (877) 781-1570 or fill out the contact form.