California Extortion Law & Defense
Penal Code 518
Information on the crime of extortion is found at California Penal Code Section 518.
Extortion is defined as obtaining of property from a victim, with the victim's consent, but where the victim's consent is obtained by the wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of extortion, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:
- threatened, either to make an accusation about another person (or one of his family members), or threatened to expose a secret of another person,
- In order to obtain an item of value such as money or property, or to have the threatened person commit some official act.
An official act is an act that a person does in his or her official capacity or by using the authority of his or her public office.
To use fear to extort another person means to:
- threaten to accuse another person of a crime
- threaten to expose another person to disgrace
- threaten to expose a secret of another person, or
- threaten to expose the immigration status of another person (PC 518 & 519).
Note: A threat, by itself, such as threatening another person to expose immigration status, threatening another person to reveal a secret, or threatening another person to accuse that person of committing a crime, is not extortion. the threat must accompany the request for money, property, or official action, to not expose the information that is the basis of the threat.
Sentence & Punishment for Extortion (PC 518 & 520)
PC 518 is classified as a wobbler in California, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony (PC 518 & 520).
Extortion is not a Strike Offense under California's Three Strikes Law unless the extortion is in connection with a criminal street gang allegation [See PC 518, 667.5(c)(19), and 186.22].
When extortion is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant could face up to one year in the county jail. When extortion is charged as a felony the defendant could face up to four years in a California state prison.
With some extortion charges it might be possible to reduce the actual sentence to probation (no jail), or to reduce the criminal charge itself to a lesser crime. Whether or not these options are possible largely depends on the evidence in the case and the defendant's criminal history.
In addition to any jail or prison sentence, criminal convictions of PC 518 charges can lead to other severe penalties and punishments, including:
- immigration consequences (non-U.S. citizens),
- harsh probation or parole terms
- monetary penalty fines & restitution
- civil lawsuits and restraining orders
- loss of professional licensing (PC 518 is a crime of moral turpitude)
- permanent firearm prohibition, and more.
Common Defenses to PC 518 crimes include:
- mistake of fact,
- insufficient evidence,
- coerced confessions,
- statute of limitations, and more
If you have been charged with extortion, or California Penal Code 518, contact our criminal defense lawyers today to learn your rights and options without delay.
Related Crimes to Extortion [PC 518] include
- Attempted extortion PC 524 & PC 664/518
- Extortion by written threat PC 523
- Extortion by threat or force PC 518 & 519
- Extortion of signature by threat PC 522
- Extortion against elder victim PC 518 & 525
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PC 518: Extortion
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