Many people think that blackmail is only illegal In California if it involves some type of physical harm, but this is not the case. Blackmail is a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. If you have been the victim of blackmail, you may be wondering what your legal options are. Keep reading to learn more about blackmail laws in California and how they may apply to your situation.
Is Blackmail a Crime in California?
In short, yes! Blackmail also referred to as extortion is a crime in the state of California. Blackmail is the crime of making an unlawful threat to another person to gain something of value. The threat can be anything that would cause the victim to suffer physical harm, damage to their property, or financial loss. Common examples of blackmail include threats to expose embarrassing information about the victim or to tell lies about them that would damage their reputation.
Under California law, it is also considered blackmail if you threaten to report someone to the police for a crime they did not commit. For example, if you threaten to call the police and falsely accuse your neighbor of being a drug dealer unless they give you money, you could be charged with blackmail.
What is the Punishment for Blackmail in California?
Extortion is a felony offense that comes with a sentencing of up to three years to four years and substantial fines that can start with $10,000.
The act of blackmail cannot be charged if the perpetrator did not have intentions of threats or blackmailing. The following threats need to be evident to charge someone with blackmail.
- Accused a person falsely of an offense or a crime
- Divulge delicate information that most likely will cause financial losses
- Reveal private or secret information about a person that is likely to cause them embarrassment or humiliation
- Report a person’s involvement or participation in a crime or a felony.
California law states that even if the attacker did not successfully obtain property from their victim, the attempt to extort can still be charged with “attempted extortion.” This offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
What Blackmail Laws in California Protect You?
Under the Penal Code Section 518 to 527 PC, “Extortion (commonly referred to as “blackmail”) is a criminal offense that involves the use of force or threats to compel another person into providing money or property, or using force or threats to compel a public official to perform or neglect an official act or duty.” Extortion is a felony offense that can land someone in prison for a lengthy amount of time.
In California, many other scenarios can constitute as extortion which luckily has laws to protect victims if they are ever faced with said crimes.
- PC 522 – Extortion of signature. It is a crime for a person to commit extortion by means of obtaining a signature.
An example is when a defendant threatens to reveal another party’s secret unless that party signs a will leaving all his/her property to the defendant.
- PC 523 – Extortion by threatening letter. It is a crime for a person to commit extortion by means of a threatening letter.
An example is when a woman has an affair with a married man, and then sends him a letter threatening to tell “all the details” to his wife unless he pays her $10,000.
If you have been the victim of blackmail, it is important to know that you have legal options available to you. If you would like more information about your specific case or would like help taking action against your blackmailer, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today or call our blackmail helpline so we can help put an end to your online blackmail. We hope our “Is Blackmail Illegal in California” article helped you. Thanks for reading!