Extortion sounds like something a mob boss in a gangster movie ends up going to prison for. And it is. But it is also a crime that many Oregon residents are charged with.
In recent years, the government’s desire to prosecute Oregonians for extortion has increased. There are several reasons why:
- The ease of obtaining evidence of extortion in the digital age.
- The legalization of cannabis and other drugs, whose licensing system is ripe for abuse.
- A 2016 amendment of Oregon’s extortion statute that makes it unlawful to threaten to report someone’s suspected immigration status to law enforcement in order to compel them to do something.
As prosecutions for extortion have increased, Attorney Michael Hughes is prepared to defend Oregonians from this, and other white-collar crimes, in both state and federal court. He fights to clear his clients’ names, and protect them from the severe consequences a conviction for this type of crime carries.
What Is Extortion?
Extortion is a crime under both state and federal law.
(1)A person commits the crime of extortion when the person compels or induces another person to either deliver property or services to the person or to a third person, or refrain from reporting unlawful conduct to a law enforcement agency, by instilling in the other person a fear that, if the property or services are not so delivered or if the unlawful conduct is reported, the actor or a third person will in the future:
- Unlawfully cause physical injury to some person;
- Unlawfully cause damage to property;
- Engage in other conduct constituting a crime;
- Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against the person;
- Report the immigration status, or suspected immigration status, of the other person, or some other person known to the other person, to a law enforcement agency;
- Cause or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action injurious to some person’s business, except that such conduct is not considered extortion when the property is demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
- Testify falsely or provide false information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
- Unlawfully use or abuse the position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.
(2)Extortion is a Class B felony.
It is important to point out that Oregon’s definition of extortion does not require a threat to be carried out in order for a crime to be committed. The fact that a credible threat was made, and the victim believed the threat could be carried out, is evidence enough to prove extortion. Additionally, the victim need not be the one who is threatened with harm. The victim of the crime of extortion may be worried some other person will be harmed if he or she does not act as requested. These two factors make Oregon’s definition of extortion quite broad.
When an act of extortion crosses state lines, either physically, or by the use of computers, the internet, phones, or mail; it may be charged as a federal crime. There are also several federal statutes that define specific acts as extortion. Some of them include:
- 18 U.S. Code section 871: Threats against President and successors to the Presidency
- 18 U.S. Code section 872: Extortion by officers or employees of the United States
- 18 U.S. Code section 873: Blackmail
- 18 U.S. Code section 874: Kickbacks from public works employees
- 18 U.S. Code section 875: Interstate communications
- 18 U.S. Code section 876: Mailing threatening communications
- 18 U.S. Code section 877: Mailing threatening communications from a foreign country
- 18 U.S. Code section 878: Threats and extortion against foreign officials, official guests, or internationally protected persons
- 18 U.S. Code section 879: Threats against former Presidents and certain other persons
- 18 U.S. Code section 880: Receiving the proceeds of extortion
Federal criminal charges are often more difficult to defend against because the feds have the manpower to investigate and build a case before bringing charges, whereas a state-level prosecutor might take a chance on a weaker case. However, a charge of extortion, whether it is state or federal, should always be taken very seriously.
The consequences of being convicted of extortion are quite serious. Steep fines and imprisonment are nearly impossible to escape.
The collateral consequences of a conviction are just as devastating because extortion is a crime of moral turpitude. If convicted, you may be barred from working in certain industries, have trouble accessing credit, and will get flagged for extra scrutiny, if not an immediate disqualification, every time someone runs a background check on you.
Putting up a strong defense is the only way to prevent a conviction for extortion or any other white-collar fraud crime from haunting you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with extortion, or suspect you are being investigated for it, Attorney Michael Hughes can help you fight to clear your good name.
Possible Defenses to Extortion Charges
Even if you have been charged with a serious offense like extortion, you remain innocent until proven guilty. Prosecutors must be able to prove every element of an offense in order to convict you. Attorney Michael Hughes knows how to gather and present evidence that casts doubt on the government’s case by highlighting different elements of the crime.
By definition, extortion requires an intent to obtain money, services, benefits, and other things of value by virtue of threatening harm. Even if there is clear evidence a threat was made, if there was no intent to obtain something of value by making that threat, then the government cannot prove extortion was committed.
Lack of Threat
Language that sounds like a threat — “I’ll kill you if you do that.” — is often more hyperbole than an actual threat. If there is not enough evidence to prove that a legitimate threat was made, that element of the crime will not be met.
Victim’s Belief in the Threat
Sometimes victims escalate situations where a non-serious threat has been made. If it is clear that a threat was made in jest, a certain turn of phrase was taken out of context, or a reasonable person would not have felt threatened, it may be possible to show that extortion did not occur.
Lack of Evidence
Extortion cases often come down to a dispute over dialogue. Unless there is written evidence or a digital recording, exact phrasing is difficult to prove in a court of law.
As discussed above, context is also important in extortion cases. If there is not enough evidence to prove a demand and a credible threat were actually made, the case should not go forward.
An Attorney Who Understands Your Side
Extortion is one of those areas of law that can be a bit ambiguous. Prosecutors have used this to their advantage to aggressively go after Oregon residents. Attorney Michael Hughes steps up to defend Oregonians who should not have been charged with extortion and do not deserve to be convicted of it. He fights to clear their good name and repair their reputation. If you have been charged with extortion, or are even being investigated for it, please reach out today to schedule an initial consultation.