extortion

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Extortion refers to imposing an action or obtaining something by force or coercion

The crime of extortion does exclude legitimate negotiation methods: one example could be a party negotiating a deal with a contractor; neither party could make a threat towards one another in exchange for something in the contract. A legitimate negotiation tactic might also include “puffing” (which is making something look reasonably better than it might otherwise be).

Under the color of office, a public or private authority may abuse their authority to commit extortion.

California describes extortion under Section 518 of its penal code as to: 

  • Threaten or use force against someone or claim official right to make someone do something when one does not have the right to do it (making the victim act “under color of official right” 
  • Intend to make the victim give you something valuable or perform an official act for you
  • Make the victim consent to giving you something valuable or performing an official act; AND,
  • Actually make the victim give you something valuable or perform an official act.

See e.g., Evans v. U.S (1992); and U.S v. Gotti (2006).

See also: 18 U.S. Code Chapter 41 - Extortion and Threats

[Last updated in December of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]