The act of extortion is centered around the use of coercion by way of a “threat.” It is important to understand that in order for the offense of extortion to be proven it need not be shown that you actually received money or property or otherwise benefited from your “threat.”
The failure to actually benefit from the commission of the crime is not an uncommon concept in criminal law. By analogy, consider the offense of “Solicitation of Prostitution.” In those prosecutions, there is no need to show that a sexual act took place, only that there was simply an “offer” of money in exchange for a sexual act.
Do the Facts of Your Case Constitute Extortion?
Florida Statute Section 836.05 outlines the prohibited conduct that constitutes the felony offense of extortion. The “threat” can be made either verbally or through written or printed communication. A reading of this criminal statute suggests that the Florida legislature took great pains in their effort to make this law cover a broad spectrum of acts. However, it is important to remember that there is going to be a vast difference in the individual facts and circumstances of each case. The criminal defense attorneys in our office will likewise want to concentrate on the strengths and weaknesses of the purported evidence.
1. It must be shown that that you maliciously threatened:
A.) to accuse another person of a crime, or;
B.) to injure the person, damage property or cause harm to his reputation, or;
C.) to threaten to disgrace him, or;
D.) to expose a secret affecting another, or;
E.) to impute any deformity or lack of chastity to another, and
2. It must be shown that your threat was made with the intention to:
A.) to extort money or pecuniary advantage, or
B.) to cause the person to do a particular act or to refrain from doing any act against his will.
Was there Actual Malice or Legal Malice?
One of the things that a criminal defense attorney will look for is whether the state can prove that their existed “actual malice.” In this regard, notice that Florida Statute Section 836.05 requires proof that the accused “maliciously” threatened the alleged victim. Actual malice requires a showing beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with “ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent. (See: Calamia v. State) Whereas simple “Legal Malice requires only proof that your acts were committed intentionally and without lawful cause.
Idle Threats Do Not Constitute Extortion
Exercising poor judgment by nonchalantly telling a friend that you intended to beat up a third party unless they repaid a debt would not be a violation of Florida law. If the “idle threat” was made without any suggestion that it be passed on or delivered to the alleged victim - there is no violation of the law.
The Penalties for Extortion in Florida
This offense is a second degree felony, which carries up to fifteen years incarceration in the Department of Corrections and as much as a $15,000.00 fine. It has been designated a “level six” under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.
Given the serious nature of this offense, you should not view this accusation lightly. It is important to discuss the entire background of the incident with experienced Pinellas County Extortion attorneys. Our early intervention with the prosecutor can sometimes make a major impact in his decision to drop the charge or to file a lesser offense.
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