Extortion Laws In Florida
Many laws state or imply that the wrong way to do something is by fraud or duress. Fraud means lying or misleading someone so that they do not understand the consequences of what you are trying to get them to do, and duress means intimidating them through threats. For example, the courts will not enforce prenuptial agreements or accept wills if these documents were signed under fraud or duress. Fraud is a factor in a variety of financial crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering. Meanwhile, the financial crime that involves acquiring money or other favors through threats is known as extortion. If you are facing criminal charges for extortion, contact a Palm Beach white collar crime lawyer.
What Is Extortion?
Florida Statutes 836.05 defines the crime of extortion as attempting to get the victim to give you money or other property or to provide services or favors by threatening the victim. You can be convicted of extortion if you threaten to do any of the following things if the victim does not comply with your demands:
- Physical violence against the victim or a member of the victim’s family
- Reveal true information or spreading a false rumor that would damage the victim’s reputation, harm the victim’s personal relationships, get the victim fired from their job, or cause the victim to become the target of a criminal investigation
- Destroy property belonging to the victim
Some of the actions punishable as extortion fit the colloquial definition of blackmail, which is where someone threatens to reveal a damaging or incriminating secret about the victim if the victim does not pay them money to keep quiet about it. Blackmail is one type of extortion, but it is also extortion if you threaten to spread a rumor that your child’s teacher is cheating on your husband unless the teacher gives your child a good grade in her class. Likewise, it is extortion if you threaten to post unflattering photos of your college classmate on social media unless your classmate gives you money.
Extortion is a second-degree felony; it carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. It does not have a mandatory minimum sentence, so it is possible to avoid prison time if you plead guilty to extortion; the judge has the option to sentence you to probation instead.
Possible Defenses to Charges of Extortion
One defense you can use in an extortion case is that your threats were idle, meaning that you said them in passing or in jest and never meant to act on them. Likewise, lawyers are allowed to threaten to sue people, so if that is the only threat you made, and you made it in the context of your work, you can use that defense, especially if your client really did have grounds for a lawsuit.
Contact a West Palm Beach Financial Crimes Lawyer Today
A Palm Beach County criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for extortion or blackmail. Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach Florida to discuss your case.