In Texas, the extortion law charges people with theft. Extortion is the act of gaining money or property through threat of violence, force, harm to reputation, property damage or unfavorable government action. There is a difference between extortion and robbery, however, in as such that there is no immediate or imminent fear or danger of physical damage in the victim. This is because the conduct is a threat of something that could happen in the future and because the threat, although sometimes of a physical nature, usually involves damage to reputation rather than body. The issue of immediate danger is the key in this, which is why if a gun is used to threaten someone is empty, the crime becomes one of extortion, even if the victim was not aware of the empty casing.
Texas Laws and Penalties
A range of different penalties can be enforced following extortion and/or blackmail. The severity of the punishment depends on the value of the services, goods or cash that has been received from the defendant of the crime. The type of threats used in the crime also change the level of severity. The sentences usually are:
- Value of gain below $50 is a “Class C” misdemeanor. Sentence involves a fine only, of up to $500.
- Value of gain above $200,000 or more is a first degree felony. Sentence involves a prison sentence between five and 99 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Usually, all cases of extortion and blackmail also include some form of restitution, as well as probation after sentence. The levels of restitution and probation vary depending on the exact details and nature of the case. It is important to note, however, that prison charges for extortion and blackmail can be very significant. An average of 15 years is handed down for each individual attempt.
Texas Extortion/Blackmail Penalties
The main factors involved in sentences for extortion and blackmail charges are the amount involved, the way the threats were delivered and who the victim was. If the victim was elderly, young or disabled, or if it was a government official, the penalties are usually higher. The four factors that will be taken into consideration by a judge in these cases are the actual threat that was made, the intent of the perpetrator, the fear instilled in the victim and the type of property that was involved in the case.
Texas Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for the crime of extortion/blackmail in Texas is five years. This means that the state must bring the case to court and press charges within that time period. However, there are situations in which the statute maybe suspended or tolled. For instance, if the perpetrator is out of state or already imprisoned on another charge, the statute of limitation may not be applicable.
Key Texas Extortion/Blackmail Cases
- Local Man Convicted In Attempted Extortion Case – Reginald Ricks was found guilty of extortion on several counts. The trial only lasted half a day and showed how Ricks had attempted to extort $4 million. The victim was the area educator. In an FBI sting, he accepted $400,000 to keep certain information quiet, but he was arrested when he went to pick up the money.
- Cop pleads guilty in extortion case – Officer Curtis Wayne Lundy has been charged with extortion. He has admitted to taking $500 for keeping a drug charge quiet. This was a clear case of wire fraud and theft of honest services. This is a very clear example of how complicated penalties are in extortion/blackmail cases. Although the amount was reasonably low, the circumstances of the case and the fact that a policeman was involved would indicate higher sentencing. The case would usually involve 20 years imprisonment, but Lundy will receive a mixed sentence involving lengthy probation instead.
- Former Texas resident charged with extortion for threatening to destroy client’s online reputation – William Laurence Stanley claimed to help company build up a better online reputation, but he then threatened businesses with using his skills to ruin their business unless they paid him money. Interestingly, Stanley and his wife, who is also being charged but has not been arrested yet, are Romanian residents and nationals. Stanley has been extradited to this country to face criminal charges. If convicted, both him and his wife could face up to 22 years in a federal prison. This case demonstrates how the internet is becoming a new tool for fraudulent activity, because companies rely so strongly on their online reputation.