What Are Considered Crimes of Extortion?

Extortion is a crime that involves the use of threats or coercion to obtain money, property, or services from another individual or entity. Under both federal law and Florida statutes, extortion is considered a serious offense.  

Blackmail is a separate and distinct criminal offense that is similar to extortion but does not involve a threat of violence. 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, has extensive experience in federal and in Florida state courts representing people accused of serious criminal offenses, including all white-collar crimes. Whether you are charged with an extortion-related offense in federal court in in one of Florida’s courts, our knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense lawyers will prioritize your best interests and fight to protect your legal rights throughout the process. Contact our Tampa office for a full review of your case. 



Extortion Under Florida Law 

In Florida, extortion is criminalized under Florida Statutes § 836.05, which defines extortion as the wrongful use of force, violence, or threats to obtain money, property, or services. Under Florida law, prosecutors must prove the following elements of extortion to convict the defendant: 

The defendant maliciously communicated a threat to another person either verbally, in writing, or by use of print:

  • to injure the person, 
  • to injure the person’s property 
  • to injure the person’s reputation 
  • to expose another person to disgrace 
  • to reveal another person’s secret 
  • or to attribute to the person a deformity or lack of chastity 

with intent to obtain money or any pecuniary advantage 


with intent to compel the person (or another person) to perform an act or to refrain from performing an act against the person’s will. 

In certain circumstances, an additional element of proof is required for a conviction. If the threat was communicated through a third party to the intended recipient, then the state prosecutor must also prove that the defendant intended that the threat be communicated to the victim. 


Blackmail Under Florida Law 

The Florida criminal statute section covering extortion and blackmail (F.S. 803.05) is titled “Threats; extortion.” Both extortion and blackmail involve threats; extortion threatens the use of violence and blackmail does not. The threat to force a person to act or omit an action against their will is the core of the offense and while you may view threats of violence more egregious than a threat to expose information, both carry the same maximum sentence. 

Of course, the sentencing judge considers all the factors in such cases, including the exact nature and method of executing the crime.  


Penalty for Extortion or Blackmail in Florida 

Under Florida law, the crimes of extortion or blackmail are classified as second-degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment, up to $10,000 in fines, restitution, and probation.  


Extortion Under US Law 

Under federal law, extortion is defined as the unlawful obtaining of property from another, with their consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear. The relevant statute, 18 U.S. Code § 1951, commonly known as the Hobbs Act, prohibits extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce.  

To win an extortion conviction under the federal statute, government prosecutors must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

  • Obtaining Property: The offender must unlawfully obtain property from another individual or entity 
  • Consent Induced by Threats: The property must be obtained with the consent of the victim, but the consent is induced by the actual or threatened wrongful use of force, violence, fear, threats, or under color of official right 
  • Interstate Commerce Nexus: Extortionate acts that affect interstate commerce, even if all acts are committed within the same state or involve the use of interstate facilities fall under federal jurisdiction 

The penalty for extortion under federal law includes imprisonment for up to one year and fines up to $100,000, plus restitution to the victim. As you will read below, there are related crimes that involve “extortionate” conduct (such as mailing the extortionate threat to the victim) that carry much more severe sentences, up to 20 years in prison. 

In many cases, if the extortionate threat is communicated by use of the postal service or by a commercial carrier, or by use of electronic devices (email, text), federal prosecution can include charges of mail fraud and/or wire fraud, both of which carry long prison sentences and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. 


Cyber-Extortion and Cyber-Blackmail (Ransomware) 

In the digital age, cybercrime has become extremely common and profitable. Large corporations, hospital systems, and other financial institutions have been victims of cyber-extortion and/or cyber-blackmail. Computer hackers gain access to these entities’ confidential information, trade secrets, private patient healthcare information, and other valuable institutional data, threatening to sell it or disclose it unless paid expensive ransoms. 

A different, but similar cyber-extortion crime involves bad actors first infiltrating a US institution’s computer system, often from outside the country, and then locking the institution out of its own computers. The extortion threatens that the data will be destroyed, wiped from the servers, unless the extortioners receive a payment of millions of dollars. 

Most such scenarios end in the victim-institution paying the ransom to regain its invaluable data.  


Read More > Types of White Collar Cyber Crimes  


Distinctions and Overlaps Between Extortion and Other Crimes 

While extortion is a distinct criminal offense, it shares similarities with other crimes such as robbery, theft by threat, and bribery. However, there are key distinctions between these offenses: 

  • Robbery: In robbery, the offender takes property directly from the victim’s person or immediate presence through the use of force, violence, or intimidation. 
  • Theft by Threat: Unlike extortion, theft by threat involves the unlawful taking of property without the victim’s consent, through the use of threats or coercion. 
  • Bribery: Bribery involves offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value in exchange for influence or action in official or public affairs. 

While these offenses may overlap in certain circumstances, each carries distinct elements and penalties under the law. 


Extortion / Blackmail Requires an Experienced Criminal Defense Law Firm 

Extortion, both under US federal law and Florida statutes, is a serious criminal offense that involves the use of threats or coercion to obtain money, property, or services from another individual or entity.  

The criminal defense lawyers at The Stechschulte Nell Law Firm in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami have established a stellar reputation for professionalism, effectiveness, and a thorough knowledge of applicable law. The defense strategy employed in each case is customized to fit the individual defendant and the particular facts of the case.  

Ensure that your criminal defense lawyer has the experience you need to conduct a successful defense in your case. Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law at 813-280-1244.  

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