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California Extortion and Blackmail Crimes Under Penal Code 518 PC

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Extortion or “Blackmail” crimes in California occurs when a person:

  1. uses force or threats to compel another person to give you money or other property,
  2. uses force or threats to compel a public officer to perform an official act, or
  3. if you are a public official, act under color of your official right to compel another person to give you money or other property.

Extortion by Threat or Force Penal Code 518 PC:

In order to be found guilty of extortion, the prosecutor must be able to prove all 4 elements of Extortion by threat or force under Penal Code 518 PC. There elements are:

  1. The defendant threatened to do one of the following to the alleged “victim”:
    • Unlawfully injure or use force against him/her, a third party, or his/her property,
      • You commit the crime of extortion only if you threaten to do something to someone else or their property that you have no legal right to do. Generally, under California law, it is not extortion, if you threaten to do something you had a specific legal right to do.
    • Accuse him/her or a relative or family member of a crime, OR
    • Expose a secret involving him/her or a family member, or connect any of them with some kind of crime, disgrace, or scandal;
  2. When making the threat or using force, the defendant intended to force the “victim” into consenting to give him/her money or property or to do an official act;
  3. As a result of the threat, the “victim” did consent to give the defendant money or property or do an official act; AND
  4. The “victim” then actually did give the defendant money or property or perform the official act.

If you believe that you have been falsely accused of and wrongly arrested for blackmail/extortion, our experienced Los Angeles, CA criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your charges. Request a free criminal defense consultation with one of our defense attorneys in Los Angeles.

Extortion By Threatening Letter (Penal Code 523 PC)

    1. Defendant sent or delivered a threatening letter or other writing to another person;
    2. The letter consists of the Defendant threatening to do any of the following:
      • Unlawfully injure the other person, a third party, or their property,
      • Accuse the other person, or that person’s relative or family member, of a crime,
      • Expose a secret about the other or that person’s relative or family member, or connect any of them with a crime or disgraceful matter; and
      • In sending or delivering the letter, defendant intended to use the threat(s) to obtain money, property, or an official act from the other person.


In California, extortion is generally treated as a felony. The penalties include:

  1. Two (2), three (3) or four (4) years in county jail, and/or
  2. Fine of ten thousand dollars ($10,000)
  • A man armed with a knife breaks into a home and threatens to kill the home’s owner if she doesn’t open a safe that contains large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry;
  • A real estate developer threatens to expose a city council member’s extramarital affair to the media if the city council member does not vote to approve a project that the developer wants to build; and
  • An adult daughter with a drug problem threatens to accuse her father of molesting her and have him arrested if he does not give her money to buy drugs.2

Legal Defenses Against a Extortion/Blackmail Charges in California include:

  1. You were falsely accused
  2. You did not actually coerce the alleged victim into consenting to hand over property,
  3. Insufficient evidence to support a conviction.
  4. In an effort to help you better understand the specifics of California extortion charges . . . and how to fight them . . . our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following:

If you or someone you know has been charged with Penal Code 518 PC extortion and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, get in touch KAASS LAW. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone at (310) 943-1171. Our main office is in Glendale,CA, with additional locations in Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, and San Bernardino.

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