The crime of blackmail, sometimes referred to as extortion, refers to the act of attempting to obtain money from somebody by threatening to expose a secret about them, or to influence the outcome of an event or circumstance that will adversely affect the person in some manner, or to disclose or publish unfavorable information about the person or his business. If the person (victim) pays the requested amount of money, then the blackmailer promises not to expose the secret, not to disclose the discreditable information or not to use his adverse influence against the victim.
Generally, blackmail and extortion are considered the same crime. However, some states such as California separate them into separate crimes. In California, for example, extortion is defined as a form of theft that occurs when an offender obtains money, property or services from another person through coercion.
Federal law punishes blackmailers who would demand or receive money as consideration for not informing about the violation of U.S. laws. Under 18 U.S.C. § 873, “whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
A charge of blackmail may be dismissed if we can establish inadequate evidence to sustain the charge; a lack of intent to commit a crime, or the lack of any threat, force or other scheme to induce the actual blackmail from taking place. If the circumstances can be shown to represent a consensual agreement, then a blackmail may be defeated. In some cases, the defendant’s state of mind may raise a defense, such as where we can establish insanity, intoxication, or other incapacity.
Please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation, if you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge involving blackmail or a related offense.