CA Penal Code 518-527 PC

Extortion; aka Blackmail

The Definition of ‘Extortion’ in California

Extortion is more commonly known as ‘blackmail’, ‘coercion’, ‘payoff’, ‘ransom’, ‘demand’, ‘to squeeze’ or ‘shakedown’.

Under California Penal Code Section 518, extortion is obtaining property from another, with his consent, by the wrongful use of force or fear.

Fear may be caused by threatening to:

  • Injure a person or property
  • Accuse the victim or their relative of a crime
  • Disgrace the victim or their relatives
  • Reveal a secret affecting the victim or their relatives

Some examples of illegal demands from someone in return for not injuring them or someone they know, or revealing compromising information about them are:

  • Applying violence or threat to get finances or personal property
    • EXAMPLE: Raul borrowed $5000 from Jorge and promised to pay him back. Raul avoids Jorge, so Jorge sends his cousins to Raul’s home and they threaten physical harm if Raul does not pay the money. As a result of the threat, Raul hands over the money.
  • Applying violence or threat to extort an officer to carry out a notarized action
    • EXAMPLE: A businessman threatens to expose a city council member’s extramarital affair if she does not vote in favor of a proposal that will help his business.
  • Using someone’s official position to extort money or property from someone else
    • EXAMPLE: A police officer threatens to frame a businessman for a crime if the businessman doesn’t give him money.

Extortion of a public officer occurs when one obtains an official act of a public officer under the color of official right. For example, a health inspector is acting under the color of official right when he/she is granting health permits.

Prosecuting PC 518

Several things must be proven in order to successfully bring charges and convict someone of committing the crime of Extortion.

The prosecutor must be able to establish ALL of the following:

  1. The defendant:
    • threatened to unlawfully injure another person; or
    • threatened to accuse someone else of a crime; or
    • threatened to expose a secret of another person
  2. When making the threat or using force, the defendant intended to use that fear or force to obtain the other person’s consent, money, property, or have that other person perform an official act
  3. As a result of the threat or use of force, the other person consented to the defendant’s demands; AND
  4. As a result of the threat or use of force, the other person complied with the defendant’s demands

Prosecutors will tend to put special emphasis on Extortion cases because of their complex nature. They are often categorized as violent crime, if the ‘criminal threats’ that are made involve physical harm to people or property.


CA Penal Code Sections 518-527 Extortion is a felony.

As a felony, an extortion charge in any form is not to be taken lightly. The penalties involve prison time, so the stakes are high:

Felony Penalties

  1. Up to 4 Years in a California State Prison
  2. A maximum fine of $10,000

Defending PC 518

Proving extortion can be difficult, due to the necessary elements that need to be proven. Some common defenses include:

  • You were falsely accused
  • You did not actually coerce the alleged victim into consenting to hand over property,
  • There was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.

All cases are unique and details certainly matter in Extortion cases. If you or a loved one is being charged with Extortion, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and call you back ASAP. Our experienced and assiduous criminal defense team will be sure to fight until the end to reduce or drop your charges completely. If necessary we are prepared to go to trial.

Extortion by Letter (CA PC 523)

If you issue the threat through writing, you may be charged with extortion by threatening letter under California Penal Code 523 PC. A common example of this crime is ‘Ransomware’.

Ransomware is a cybercrime in California that is prosecuted under extortion law. Ransomware cases are slightly unique, because the act of holding your data hostage has already happened before demand for payment is made.

Ransomware crimes generated $209 million in payments in the first three months of 2016, and the number of cases is on the rise. This crime is punishable by up to four years in jail.

Call Us

If you have been accused of Extortion, please don’t hesitate to call us now. Our goal is to keep your criminal record clean!

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