Protecting yourself from threats and extortion, or defending yourself from accusations of such crimes, requires at least a basic understanding of Florida Extortion Law. Knowing the gist of the Florida’s Extortion Statute on threats and extortion will help you navigate your own case.
Florida Extortion, Defined
What defines extortion? First, it’s important to understand that extortion falls under “white-collar collar crime.” This term is a general and informal classification for non-violent offenses committed for financial gain. If the threat is carried out and it involves some form of violence, the case becomes a hybrid of a violent crime and a white-collar crime.
Extortion itself revolves around the use of coercion and threat to unlawfully collect money, property, or service from another person. The threat may come in the form of action or inaction, and it should be significant enough to overcome the victim’s free will (hence, the element of coercion). Extortion is also known as blackmail.
The 2018 Florida Statutes outline extortion in the chapter on “Defamation; Libel; Threatening Letters and Similar Offenses.” Under statute 836.05, extortion is defined by “intent to extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatsoever.” There must be proof of a verbal or written threat that the defendant made.
Examples of Extortion
There are many ways a threat can be carried out to coerce a victim into doing something against their own will. The Florida Extortion Statute outlines the following as examples of threat or leverage:
- Physical harm, e.g., violent attack, demanding something at gunpoint, death
- Psychological harm
- Reveal of a secret
- An accusation of a crime, e.g., a defendant accused the victim of a crime they did or did not commit
- Harm a person’s reputation, e.g., defendant threatened to spread malicious rumors, fabricated photographs
These examples of extortion include both lawful and unlawful acts. As long as the actions are with the intent to coerce someone else, they can be proved as malicious. The defendant does not need to have actually received any money or service for the threat to count as extortion.
Lastly, current extortion laws do not require any of these examples of extortion actually to be carried out. For example, the mere act of expressing the intent of violence, without actually committing any physical harm, already counts towards malicious intent showing extortion. Likewise, the defendant does not need to have the ability to perform the threatened act for the threat to qualify.
Penalties for Extortion
Extortion in Florida is a second-degree felony. Convicted persons face up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine.
Defense Cases for Extortion
There are some possible defenses for extortion under Florida law, and this includes self-defense, defense or property, and defense of another person. It is also possible to prove that the threat was an idle threat.
What To Do If You Are Accused of Extortion
If you are charged with extortion, you need more than just a basic grasp of the Florida Extortion Statute. It is essential for you to have a criminal lawyer who has the experience and expertise to navigate the complexities of federal and state laws. You should contact an experienced South Florida criminal defense attorney immediately. The professionals at the Law Offices of Michael A. Gottlieb can provide any legal assistance you may need. Contact our office today at 954-462-1005 for a free consultation.