The Crime of Extortion in California - PC 518
California Penal Code 518 PC describes the white collar crime of extortion as using force or threats to compel someone to give them their money, property, or to compel a public official to perform or neglect an official act.
Extortion is commonly called “blackmail” and can be filed as either a California state or federal crime.
An example of extortion includes a situation where someone makes threats to expose the extramarital affair of a company executive unless they are paid $5,000.
Other examples of PC 518 extortion include:
- someone uses force or threats to compel a government official to perform a specific act;
- a government official who threatens to withhold service unless another individual provides them money or property;
- an individual threatens to report a crime to police unless they receive some form of compensation, such as money or property.
PC 518 extortion is a felony crime in California and punishable by up to four years in a state prison.
In order to give readers a better understanding of California's extortion laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.
What is the Definition of PC 518 Extortion?
Penal Code 518 PC provides a definition for this California crime as follows:
- “Extortion is obtaining property or other consideration from another person, with their consent, or obtaining an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”
As you can see, the broad definition of extortion can include a wide range of activity, which makes it possible for someone to commit Penal Code 518 extortion without having an intent to do so. There are also a few other forms of extortion statutes in California, including:
Penal Code 522 PC – extortion by signature,
Penal Code 524 PC – attempted extortion,
Penal Code 532 PC – extortion by threatening letter.
What Must a Prosecutor Prove for an Extortion Conviction?
In order for a prosecutor to convict you of California Penal Code 518 PC extortion, they must be able to prove several crucial factors related to the crime.
These are commonly known as the ‘elements of the crime” and listed under CALCRIM 1830 Jury Instructions, that the defendant:
- threaten to injure the victim, another person, property, or;
- threaten to accuse another person of a crime, or;
- threaten to disclose a secret about the victim, or a member of their family, unless they receive money or property;
- had intent to force the victim into giving them money or property when they made threats to use force or fear, or perform an official act;
- due to the threats, the victim gave consent to give them money or property, or perform an official act;
- due to the threats, the victim actually gave defendant money or property,
It's important to note a defendant can still be convicted of extortion even where there are no injuries or actual force used against the victim. In other words, just the threat alone is sufficient for a conviction.
What is a secret?
In the context of Penal Code 518 PC extortion, a “secret” is described as:
- any information that is unknown to the general public;
- that could potentially harm victim's reputation to a degree;
- where victim is willing to provide money or property to prevent exposure of the information.
An “official act” is something a government official would do in their official capacity.
In a situation where a victim doesn't actually give the defendant money, property, or perform an official act, they could still be convicted of Penal Code 524 PC attempted extortion.
What are the Penalties for PC 518 Extortion?
If you are convicted on Penal Code 518 PC, it's a felony crime punishable by:
- up to four years in a California state prison,
- a fine up to $10,000,
- formal felony probation.
If the victim suffers from a mental or physical impairment, this could be considered as aggravating factors for sentencing.
If the felony extortion involved gang activity, then the conviction could count as a “strike” under California's three strikes law.
A felony conviction will also result in the loss of rights to own or possess a firearm.
Attempted extortion penalties
The crime of Penal Code 524 PC attempted extortion is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor attempted extortion, the penalties include:
- up to one year in a county jail,
- a fine of up to $1,000, and
- informal summary probation.
If you are convicted of a felony attempted extortion case, the penalties include:
- up to three years in a California state prison,
- a fine up to $10,000, and
- formal probation.
What are the Related California Crimes?
Penal Code 67 PC – bribery
Penal Code 211 PC – robbery
Penal Code 422 PC – criminal threats
Penal Code 459 PC – burglary
Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft
How Can I Fight Penal Code 518 PC Extortion Charges?
If you have been accused of violating Penal Code 518 extortion laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of strategies depending on the details of the case:
- no use of force or threats;
- lack on intent;
- false allegation;
- insufficient evidence.
We might be able to make an argument you didn't coerce the alleged victim into giving money or property. Perhaps the victim misunderstood your statements or they have exaggerated what you actually said.
We might be able to make a reasonable argument you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Perhaps the alleged victim was motivated by revenge or jealously.
We might be able convince the prosecutor they simply don't possess sufficient to prove all the elements of the extortion crime listed above.
Perhaps we can prove the testimony from the alleged victim or witnesses are not credible or reliable.
Criminal Defense for California Extortion Cases
If you were accused of extortion under California Penal Code 518, contact our experienced team Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to review the details of the case.
We have a track record of success defending clients against all types of white collar crimes, including extortion.
Through prefiling intervention, we might be able to persuade the prosecutor not to file formal criminal charges before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing people throughout Southern California, including LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Torrance, and Pasadena.
We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.