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The crime of extortion is governed by Va. Code § 18.2-59. Under this statute, extortion consists of a threat or accusation coupled with an extortion of money or other benefit. The Virginia Court of Appeals has held that the term "extort" means: "To gain by wrongful methods; to obtain in an unlawful manner, as to compel payments by means of threats of injury to person, property, or reputation. To exact something wrongfully by threats or putting in fear." Stein v. Commonwealth, 12 Va. App. 65, 69 (1991). The crime of extortion is different than the crime of theft and robbery, though extortion is a form of theft and shares traits with robbery. Another name for extortion is blackmail.

What is Extortion?

In the crime of extortion, the perpetrator:

  • Threatens to injure another person’s character or property,

  • Accuses another person of any crime,

  • Threatens to report another person as being in the U.S. illegally, or

  • Intentionally destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates, withholds or threatens to withhold, or possesses any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person with the intent to make the give up something.

What is the Punishment for Extortion?

Extortion is punishable as a Class 5 felony. Under Va. Code § 18.2-10, a Class 5 felony is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

An Example of Extortion

Suppose A obtains private nude photos of B who does not want the photos released. A threatens B with release of the photos unless B gives him something in exchange, such as a service or something of value, which B would not otherwise do. A is compelling B to do something he does not wish to do by threatening B with release of private nude photos. This is extortion.

Charlottesville Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are circumstances under which a person may be charged with extortion where the elements of extortion are not present and a viable defense is available. You need an attorney who has experience with crimes of extortion. Such an attorney can make sure you get the best outcome in your case. Bryan J. Jones is committed to his clients and will develop a defense strategy tailored just for you. Contact Bryan J. Jones, LLC today.