West Palm Beach Extortion Defense Attorney

Attorneys defending Florida in federal criminal cases

Nearly everyone is familiar with how blackmail works in theory: one person attempts to coerce another into paying money or conferring some other benefit by threatening to reveal incriminating or embarrassing information about the victim. However, many would be surprised to learn that blackmailing another persons constitutes a crime known as extortion. Blackmail is only one form of extortion. Generally, any use of force or making a threat to obtain something of value from another person is classified as extortion. The threat must be made against a person and may include a threat of physical harm, financial harm, destruction of property, or simply be an abuse of official authority. Extortion is punishable in state and federal courts. Federal extortion cases typically involve a situation that involves communication that crosses state lines. Threats made against public officials in exchange for a benefit are also generally prosecuted as extortion in federal court. In addition to prohibiting extortion against public officials, certain federal government officials are also regulated by extortion laws that prohibit them from making threats and demanding extra benefits from everyday members of the public. Organized crime groups often use extortion as a means of generating income.

Extortion and related times

Extortion is a white collar crime, a type of offense that is usually non-violent in nature, motivated by financial gain, and involves business or government workers. There is often overlap between different white collar crimes, and extortion is no exception. Cases that involve extortion often also include other white collar offenses such as:

  • money laundering
  • cyber crime
  • bribery
  • mail fraud
  • wire fraud

Examples of extortion

There are many different ways in which extortion may take place. If a government official’s next door neighbor discovers the official has been hiring illegal labor to work at his home and the neighbor attempts to obtain a free liquor license for his restaurant in exchange for his silence, the neighbor has committed extortion. A corporate executive may be extorted if someone from the rival company contacts the executive and threatens to release explicit photos if he or she does not provide confidential trade secrets. The person who contacts the executive has committed federal extortion. If the communication occurs through an interstate means such as internet, phone, or mail. It is important to note that there are cases in which a person may threaten to release false information. The individual may still be convicted of extortion even if the information he or she is threatening to release is untrue.

Cyber extortion

Cyber security professionals have noticed a growing trend of cyber criminals moving from more tangible crimes like identity theft, bank fraud, and payment card fraud to cyber extortion. When a criminal commits cyber extortion, he or she threatens to compromise the victim’s personal data or attack the victim’s computer system if he or she does not send money. Cyber criminals commit extortion by using ransomware, ransom emails, and denial of service attacks in which the victim loses access to his or her computer system because the cyber extortionist has blocked his or her access.

Defenses against an extortion charge

There are situations in which there may exist a conflict between two people and threats are made, but the situation falls short of federal extortion. If a situation does not meet all the required elements of extortion, a West Palm Beach extortion lawyer will work to establish that the prosecution has not met the burden of proof required for conviction. For example, if a politician is involved with his next door neighbor in a legal battle over a disputed property line, heated words may be exchanged. Even though the neighbor may angrily tell the politician he intends to talk to the local newspaper about the dispute, extortion has not taken place if the neighbor did not intend the statement to be a threat and if the neighbor did not demand anything of value while making the statement. The prosecutor would also likely have difficulty proving extortion because ownership of the property in question is disputed, and the neighbor may rightfully believe the property belongs to him. Another factor that may be argued in the accused party’s defense is intoxication. A person who made a threat only once while intoxicated, but never again while sober likely lacked the required element of intent to extort the accuser of his or her money, property, or services. It is important to note that even in cases that fall short of federal extortion, the accused may still be convicted on related charges like harassment, fraud, or racketeering if the jury finds that defendant’s behavior met the requirements of a related criminal offense.

Contacting a West Palm Beach federal extortion defense lawyer

Defendants who are convicted of extortion may be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison. Anyone who has been accused of extortion in West Palm Beach should first contact a Florida defense lawyer. Individuals who have been accused of extortion should cease contact with the accuser and have an attorney present during all conversations regarding the case. An attorney can help the accused avoid making statements that may later be used by the prosecution in an effort to support the government’s case against the accused. Federal cases require the assistance of an attorney who is specifically experienced with successfully handling high-stakes situations. The best lawyer to call when facing federal extortion charges is someone who has been there, done that, and has the successful track record as proof of solid commitment to obtaining favorable client outcomes.