Extortion

ExtortionExtortion is an offense that is typically associated with organized crime and high stakes white-collar cases, but in reality it is a common charge that frequently shows up in Maryland courtrooms.  Although it is not a legal term, blackmail is a common street name for this crime.  It is a crime that is somewhat misunderstood, and wrongly used interchangeably with similar crimes such as bribery and racketeering. But extortion is a unique offense and has multiple elements that the prosecutor must prove for the case to get past a judgment of acquittal.  If you or a loved one has been charged or is being investigated for this offense it is important to retain a defense lawyer who is familiar with each of these elements, and is prepared to fight for a dismissal or a not guilty verdict.  The attorneys at The Herbst Firm are standing by to offer a free consultation and are willing to meet with you in our office, or anywhere in the state to discuss how to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.   

The definition of extortion in the state criminal code is rather lengthy and can be complex.  The crime must involve a person obtaining or attempting to obtain the property or services of another.  Property can include money or anything else of value but it typically involves money or a promise to pay money.  Services can include labor or any kind of act that has some sort of value, and the value does not have to be monetary.  The unique element of extortion is that the property or services obtained or attempted must be with the alleged victim’s consent.  In other words the alleged victim must give up the property or provide the services for the defendant.  Extortion does not involve an unlawful theft or taking, and it typically does not involve any sort of fraud or deceit.  Simply put it is getting someone else to do something or pay any amount via some sort of threat or use of force.  The threat or actual force could include violence, a threat of economic injury, or in some specific cases could include the destruction or confiscation of immigrant or government identification documents with the intent to harm the immigration status of another person.

Under Maryland law, extortion can either be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the value of the property or services that is the subject of the act.  If the value is over $500 then the charge will be a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.  If the value is less than $500 the charge will be filed as misdemeanor with an 18-month maximum sentence.   There are also fines involved with this charge including $5,000 for a felony and $500 for a misdemeanor.  There is a five year statute of limitations for felony extortion.  Keep in mind that the acts of employees and their representatives to obtain certain wages, hours, or working conditions are specifically excluded from this statute.  It is also not extortion to threaten a non-frivolous lawsuit.
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