California Extortion & Blackmail Laws & Charges + Statute Of Limitations

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Under California law (Penal Code 518), the crime of extortion or blackmail occurs when the following occurs:

  • You use threats or force to compel someone to give you property or money.

  • You use threats or force to compel a public official to perform an act.

  • If you are a public official, you use your office to compel someone to give you money or property.

Extortion charges can be brought against you in California for many types of behavior. For example, if you break into someone’s house and threaten to kill them occupants with a gun if they do not give you money, that can be charged as extortion, among other crimes.

Or, a real estate developer threatens to tell about an affair a government official is having if that official does not allow a vote to approve a real estate project that developer is working on.

Another possibility would be if an adult daughter threatens to accuse her father of molesting her if he does not give her money.

Note that extortion can be charged whether it occurred in person, by phone, telephone, text, email or any other form of communication.

California Laws and Penalties

Extortion in this state is usually a felony. The penalties usually are two to four years in county jail and as high as a $10,000 fine. In some cases, it can be charged as a misdemeanor if the money involved is a smaller amount. In this case, it typically is punished by a year in county jail.


Extortion charges can be a nightmare and can be hard to deal with. Even if you are proven innocent, the damage to your reputation can be severe and hard to overcome. However, experienced extortion attorneys can effectively fight these charges. Common defenses include:

  • You did not coerce the person to give you property or money.

  • You were accused falsely.

  • There is not enough evidence to convict you.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for extortion depends if it is a felony or misdemeanor. It is five years for a felony, and two years for a misdemeanor.

Extortion and Blackmail Cases

  • Largest Gang Case in San Bernardino County Ends – A large gang prosecution in San Bernardino County, CA ended last week with 61 people convicted on charges of extortion, assault and drug dealing. This was the end of a years-long effort by prosecutors to stop a gang that had plagued the town of Victorville CA for years.

  • Calexico City Council in CA Accused of Extortion – Some members of the Calexico City CA city council are running a bribery and extortion racket with local police, according to the new police chief for the town. The FBI is investigating these charges of corruption and extortion.

  • Class Action Extortion Case Dismissed in CA – The website Yelp has been sued under various legal theories, which allege that it is manipulating reviews to gain more ad revenue. However, in the most recent of these cases in CA, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence.