What is Extortion?
It is illegal under both federal and state law to extort someone. Extortion involves using a threat or coercion against someone to get that individual to hand over money or property of some kind. Extortion cases often involve someone trying to get money or something else of value from another person by threatening them to reveal some type of private information. Extortion is also commonly known as blackmail.
The federal law against extortion can be found at 18 USC § 873. Federal extortion law only relates to threats to expose, or something of value for not exposing, violations of federal law. This means that if an individual threatens to expose another for a crime under state law, then the individual could potentially be charged under a state's extortion statute, but not under the federal blackmail statute.
If an act is illegal under both a state law and a federal law, then the government can choose to prosecute the person under either state or federal law. The government is more likely to choose the federal law if:
- the case is important to the federal government
- the crime happened in more than one state
- state prosecution would not be good enough to serve governmental interests
In most cases, extortion will result in a state criminal charge. When federal laws are involved in the alleged threats made due to blackmail, then federal extortion charges can result. If you are facing an extortion charge, then it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
What are the Potential Penalties for Extortion?
A conviction for federal extortion can result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine. For a first-time offender, it may be possible to stay out of jail and instead be sentenced to an alternative such as home confinement, probation, or other punitive measures.
What are Some Examples of Extortion?
Someone is guilty of federal extortion whether the threats made were directed at the victim or against someone else. Examples of attempted federal extortion include:
- Threatening to expose an individual who is guilty of federal corruption or fraud and demanding a piece of property from the individual to stay quiet.
- Threatening to harm an individual's family member if a certain sum of money is not paid to conceal a federal crime committed by the individual.
- Threatening to expose an individual for bribing a US Congressman unless the individual gets a job for someone.
- Threatening to go to the police against someone for alleged insider trading for a sum of money.
There are many ways that someone can be guilty of extortion under federal law. Make sure to speak to an experienced attorney if you are facing such a charge.
What are Some Common Defenses to an Extortion Charge?
There are several defenses that can be used if you are accused of extortion. The defenses that may be available can be based on the following factors:
- Whether the police committed constitutional rights violations;
- Whether any money or thing of value was demanded;
- Whether actual threats were made against the alleged victim;
- Whether this is a case of mistaken identity;
- Whether the alleged victim is making a false allegation;
- Whether the defendant was entrapped by the police.
The answers to the above questions about the charges against you will help you figure out what kind of defenses you may have. Some defenses can only be used before trial, such as motions to suppress evidence, while others can only be used during a trial. You need to talk to a lawyer who has experience with federal criminal cases to find out what your best defenses are and what your next steps should be.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Cases tried under federal law are prosecuted in federal District Courts across the United States. In Pennsylvania, there are three federal districts. These districts are known as the Central District, Middle District, and Eastern District, and they are based on geographical location. If your extortion case is alleged to have occurred in central or eastern Pennsylvania, then your criminal case will be prosecuted in either the Middle District or Eastern District Court.
If you lose your case in a federal district court, then you can seek an appeal to a federal court of appeals. Appeals from the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania are reviewed and ruled on in the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The only higher remaining appellate court is the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cherry-picks the cases it hears and decides. There is no legal right to be heard in the United States Supreme Court for any specific case. The Supreme Court chooses cases that are of national interest.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you have been charged with a crime such as extortion by the federal government, then make sure you have defense counsel who has experience with federal criminal defense. It is critical to have experienced legal help to properly evaluate your case and determine what your best defense strategy is. This attorney can also help you determine if it is in your best interests to go to trial or to make a deal. If you have questions, please contact us at the Lento Law Firm right away.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being investigated or prosecuted for federal extortion, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team have helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help defend your federal case.