Extortion Charges & Penalties by State

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Under federal law, there are many different types of extortion that might be prosecuted as a federal crime. Extortion can stand on its own as a federal offense, or it can be part of a pattern of offenses including bribery and corruption. One of the most pertinent forms of federal extortion is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 872, which provides a penalty of up to three years for agents of the federal government who commit an act of extortion. Extortion stands apart from other forms of racketeering and theft in that it always includes a written or verbal theft.

Extortion Laws

All states have individual laws against extortion. Federal extortion laws focus upon threats that impact federal employees, or threats that come from federal employees themselves. These include appointed personnel, such as federal government workers, as well as elected officials. Extortion may be treated as a federal crime even in cases where no federal entity was a party to the crime if the threat crosses state lines. For example, if a threat is mailed from one state to another, the crime is likely to be treated as a federal matter. The same is possible if the threat was issued over the Internet.

Extortion Crimes & Charges

Federal extortion laws provide protections both to and against federal employees. This is because extortion can be a very powerful way for a corrupt government official to negatively impact the lives of others. Likewise, federal extortion laws also provide for prosecution in cases where the crime involved multiple states or multiple types of offenses. Some charges defined by federal statute include:

  • Threats against the President and certain successors to the office of president may be treated as examples of criminal extortion. In many of these cases, the individual making the threat is investigated immediately by the FBI. Intent is used to judge whether further prosecution should be pursued.
  • Extortion by any agent of the United States government, including officers and employees, is treated as a federal matter, and can be compounded by the use of federal authority to effect such extortion.
  • Mailing threating communications across state lines, even if from a foreign country, can be prosecuted as federal extortion, especially if the intent was to coerce the victim of the threatening communication to give the threatening party some valuable consideration.
  • Threats against foreign dignitaries and officials while they are guests of the United States, as well as threats against former Presidents and certain other protected persons, are all prohibited and may fall under federal extortion statutes.
  • Receiving the proceeds of extortion, whether or not you are the individual who made the original threats, can result in prosecution for federal extortion. Those who receive the proceeds of extortion may be subject to imprisonment between one and three years, depending on whether they knowingly received those proceeds or not.

Extortion Punishment

Extortion generally results in a prison term and a fine. The specific extent of each of these punishments will depend on the type of extortion that the individual engaged in, whether they were the direct perpetrator or a party to the crime, and whether they knowingly benefited from the crime.

Extortion Sentencing Guidelines

A point system is used to inform the sentencing process in an extortion case. The base offense level is 18, with increases taking place based upon the specific nature of the threat and its material results.

Extortion Statute of Limitations

The federal statute 18 USC 3282 is crucial in determining federal, noncapital statutes of limitations. It provides that an indictment must exist within 60 months of the crime in question or it cannot be prosecuted.

Extortion Cases

Federal extortion cases are relatively rare. When they take place, they generally include a wide variety of other charges, such as corruption, bribery, and graft. In recent years, many of those prosecuted under federal extortion laws have been public officials at a municipal or state level. Some examples of recent extortion cases include:

  • In May 2013, a former state treasurer of the State of Arkansas, Martha Shoffner, was arrested on federal extortion charges. She was later indicted on multiple charges related to receiving federal funds and other potential crimes. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)
  • In 2012, an online sex extortion operation allegedly run by Indiana-based Richard Leon Finkbiner was uncovered. This is believed by many observers to be the largest extortion operation of its kind to date. (News Sentinel)

Extortion Quick Links & References

Extortion Laws By State

Extortion laws are designed to prevent individuals from obtaining money, property, or services through coercion or threats, but the laws vary significantly by each state:

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
CaliforniaIowaMissouriOhioVermont
ColoradoKansasMontanaOklahomaVirginia
ConnecticutKentuckyNebraskaOregonWashington
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

Alabama

Under Code of Alabama Section 13A-8-13:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class B felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and fines up to $30,000.

Alaska

Under Alaska Stat. Section 11.41.520:

  • Extortion is considered a Class B felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Arizona

Under A.R.S. Section 13-1804:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class 4 felony, with penalties ranging from one to 3.75 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

Arkansas

Under Ark. Code Ann. Section 5-36-101:

  • Extortion can be charged as a Class B felony, with penalties ranging from five to 20 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

California

Under California Penal Code Section 518:

  • Extortion can result in imprisonment for two, three, or four years and fines up to $10,000.

Colorado

Under Colo. Rev. Stat. Section 18-3-207:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class 4 felony, with penalties including two to six years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Connecticut

Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-119:

  • Extortion is considered a Class C felony, with penalties of one to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Delaware

Under Title 11, Section 846:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class E felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines as determined by the court.

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 836.05:

  • Extortion can result in second-degree felony charges, with penalties up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Section 16-8-16:

  • Extortion is a felony with penalties of one to 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $100,000.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 707-764:

  • Extortion is classified as theft in the first degree, a Class B felony, with penalties up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Idaho

Under Idaho Code Section 18-2403:

  • Extortion is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Illinois

Under Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5/12-6:

  • Extortion is classified as intimidation, a Class 3 felony, with penalties of two to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Section 35-45-2-1:

  • Extortion is a Level 5 felony, with penalties of one to six years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Iowa

Under Iowa Code Section 711.4:

  • Extortion is a Class D felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $7,500.

Kansas

Under Kansas Statutes Section 21-5428:

  • Extortion is a severity level 7 person felony, punishable by up to 34 months in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 514.080:

  • Extortion is a Class C felony, with penalties of five to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Louisiana

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:66:

  • Extortion is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Maine

Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 17-A, Section 355:

  • Extortion is a Class C crime, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Maryland

Under Maryland Code Section 3-701:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 25:

  • Extortion is punishable by up to 15 years in state prison and fines up to $5,000.

Michigan

Under Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.213:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 or three times the value of the property involved, whichever is greater.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.27:

  • Extortion can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years and fines up to $20,000, depending on the severity of the offense.

Mississippi

Under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-82:

  • Extortion is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Missouri

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 570.030:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class D felony, with penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Montana

Under Montana Code Annotated Section 45-5-201:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Nebraska

Under Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 28-513:

  • Extortion is a Class III felony, with penalties of up to four years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Nevada

Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 205.320:

  • Extortion is a Category B felony, with penalties of one to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 637:5:

  • Extortion is a Class A felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $4,000.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Statutes Section 2C:20-5:

  • Extortion is classified as a second-degree crime, with penalties of five to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

New Mexico

Under New Mexico Statutes Section 30-16-9:

  • Extortion is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to three years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

New York

Under New York Penal Law Section 155.05:

  • Extortion is classified as larceny and can result in imprisonment of up to 25 years and fines up to $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the crime.

North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 14-118.4:

  • Extortion is a Class F felony, with penalties of 10 to 41 months in prison and fines as determined by the court.

North Dakota

Under North Dakota Century Code Section 12.1-23-05:

  • Extortion is a Class C felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 2905.11:

  • Extortion is a third-degree felony, with penalties of nine to 36 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma Statutes Title 21, Section 1481:

  • Extortion is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Oregon

Under Oregon Revised Statutes Section 164.075:

  • Extortion is a Class B felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18, Section 3923:

  • Extortion is classified as theft by extortion and is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 11-42-2:

  • Extortion is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

South Carolina

Under South Carolina Code Section 16-17-640:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines at the court’s discretion.

South Dakota

Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 22-19A-1:

  • Extortion is a Class 4 felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-14-112:

  • Extortion is a Class D felony, with penalties ranging from two to 12 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Texas

Under Texas Penal Code Section 31.02:

  • Extortion is classified as theft, with penalties ranging from 180 days to two years in state jail and fines up to $10,000 for state jail felonies, up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for second-degree felonies, and five to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for first-degree felonies.

Utah

Under Utah Code Section 76-6-406:

  • Extortion is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Vermont

Under Vermont Statutes Title 13, Section 1701:

  • Extortion is considered a felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $1,000.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-59:

  • Extortion is a Class 5 felony, with penalties including up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Washington

Under Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.56.110:

  • Extortion is a Class B felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

West Virginia

Under West Virginia Code Section 61-2-13:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of one to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin Statutes Section 943.30:

  • Extortion is classified as a Class H felony, with penalties including up to six years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Wyoming

Under Wyoming Statutes Section 6-2-402:

  • Extortion is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.