Blackmail and extortion make fun plots in movies, but it’s not much fun to be the victim of them in real life. Both are against the law in Texas.
Here’s everything you need to know about these two crimes and how we might defend you if you’re accused of them.
Extortion is covered under Texas Penal Code Chapter 31. It is technically a theft crime.
A person commits extortion when they gain property or money by force or threat of violence, property damage, harm to reputation, or unfavorable action.
It is distinguished from a robbery in that the threat of harm is not immediate but threatened for some time in the future.
Blackmail is the crime of intentionally threatening to reveal confidential or embarrassing information about a person unless that person provides them with something of value, be it money, a service, or keeping silent about something they should be revealing.
For example, a Texas man recently stole nudes to blackmail over 1,000 victims. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a nude photo, many people would find releasing such a photo embarrassing and might be vulnerable to giving up money or goods to prevent such an act.
Like extortion, blackmail is considered to be a theft crime.
Blackmail can be a strange crime because the act you’re threatening is perfectly legal: revealing information about a person is not usually criminal. Nevertheless, the act of turning that revelation into a threat and demanding money or valuables in return counts as a criminal act. It is criminal because it is a coercive attempt to gain property from the victim without that victim’s consent.
Penalties for Blackmail and Extortion
The penalties, and whether these crimes count as misdemeanors or felonies, depend on:
- The value of the property taken
- The severity of the threats
- The amount of fear involved
The value of the property will be the most important determinant of the length of the prison sentence and the value of any possible fines that must be paid.
Defenses for Extortion Crimes
Extortion crimes often involve verbal threats, so if the DA has no physical evidence of the crime, such as a video recording, audio recording, email, or text message, it becomes your word against the plaintiff. We may even be able to get the charges dropped for lack of evidence.
Other defenses include proving the plaintiff was mistaken in taking the defendant’s words as a threat, proving the defendant had no intent of depriving the owner of property and proving that the property owner gave consent for whatever the alleged extortion was supposed to do to the property.
Defenses Against Blackmail Crimes
As with many theft crimes, we can often defend against blackmail charges by showing that you had no intention of blackmailing the victim. As with extortion, if no evidence of the threat exists, we can also undermine the case by showing that the DA’s case amounts to little more than a case of your word against the plaintiff’s.
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Blackmail and extortion may also be charged as federal crimes. Plus, even a relatively small blackmail scheme amounting to less than $100 in gain can be charged as a Class C misdemeanor, resulting in jail time and a criminal record.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, don’t delay. Call Greco Neyland to get expert help with your case.
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