Extortion, the act of making threats against another person to take their money or property, is a crime federally and in the state of New Jersey. Also known as blackmail, a shakedown, or a squeeze, it can be profoundly damaging to the financial life of the victim of the extortion.
If you have been involved in a case of theft by extortion in New Jersey as either an offender or a victim, it is advised that you get in touch with the lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zaych as soon as possible. You can do so by either calling (609) 445-3823 or visiting their website.
Definition of Extortion in New Jersey
Extortion, according to New Jersey law, can mean many different things as long as a threat is used to get money from someone. The threats made may be immediate or in the future. It should also be noted that “theft,” according to a legal definition, means either taking someone’s property away from them or withholding something that is owed to them. According to New Jersey law, theft by extortion happens when a person unlawfully obtains property from someone else by threatening to do the following:
- Physically confine, restrain, or inflict bodily harm on a person
- Accuse the victim of an offense they didn’t do or to cause charges to be instituted against that person
- Expose or publicize facts, either true or false, about that person, that may bring hatred, contempt, ridicule, or impaired credibility to that person
- Withhold or take action as an official, or cause another official to withhold or take action
- Initiate or participate in a strike, boycott, or other type of collective action if the group is not given the property that they demand
- Testify against someone, withhold testimony, or provide information that pertains to another person’s legal defense or claim
- Inflict any other type of injury that could harm, and not benefit, the victim of extortion
When attempting to convict someone for theft by extortion, a prosecutor must prove four critical elements:
- The defendant obtained money or property that belonged to another person
- That money or property was obtained as a result of one of the threats listed above
- That threat was made for the purpose of obtaining the money or property
- The defendant’s demand for the money or property was unlawful
A charge of extortion is similar to the charge of criminal coercion. The main difference, it should be noted, is that criminal coercion involves threatening to commit a criminal offense, accuse someone of a criminal offense, or take or withhold action as an official as a way of restricting someone’s actions.
Extortion, on the other hand, entails threatening someone as a way of obtaining their property. It should also be noted that extortion differs from robbery in that robbery uses the threat of force to commit theft while theft by extortion uses threats of action.
Penalties for Extortion in New Jersey
Penalties for theft by extortion are determined by the degree of the charge for the crime. The most minor charge for theft by extortion is Disorderly Persons Theft by Extortion, which entails theft of less than $200 and incurs a penalty of six months in county jail. 4th Degree Theft by Extortion is charged against people who have stolen between $200 and $500 and results in 18 months is NJ state prison. Those who steal between $500 and $75,000 or a firearm, vehicle, boat, pet, vessel, or airplane will receive a charge of 3rd Degree Theft by Extortion, which results in three to five years in state prison.
The most severe charge for extortion that a person can receive is 2nd Degree Theft by Extortion, which is charged against people who have stolen at least $75,000 or at least one kilogram of a controlled dangerous substance. This charge carries a penalty of five to 10 years in NJ state prison.
Possible Defenses for Theft by Extortion Charges
It is possible to use affirmative defense as a defense against the charge of theft by extortion. This defense entails arguing that the act was not a crime because what is alleged to be extortion was actually an honest attempt at receiving compensation or restitution. Other possible ways that a person can defend themselves against these charges are defenses of mistake, incapacity, insanity, intoxication, and duress or necessity.
New Jersey Theft by Extortion Lawyer Serving Atlantic and Cape May Counties
Extortion is a serious crime. If you have been charged with extortion in New Jersey, you can expect to face serious penalties. And if you have been the victim of extortion in New Jersey, you know the havoc that extortion can wreak on your financial security. In either case, a lawyer can help you protect yourself as you move through the legal process. The Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys that work with the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you today. Contact them by calling (609) 445-3823 or visiting their website.