Extortion in Florida

Under Florida Statute 836.05, the crime of Extortion is committed when a person maliciously threatens to:

  • Accuse another of any crime or offense;
  • Injure the person, property or reputation of another;
  • Expose another to disgrace;
  • Expose any secret affecting another; or
  • Impute any deformity or lack of chastity to another.
  • with the intent to:
    • Extort money or any pecuniary advantage; or
    • Compel any person to do any act or refrain from doing any act against their will.
  • Actual Malice versus Legal Malice

    Although it is a subtle distinction, under the Extortion statute, the prosecutor is required to prove the threat was committed with Actual Malice, which means "means ill will, hatred, spite, an evil intent." [1]

    This is in contrast to what is known as Legal Malice, which only requires that an act be committed intentionally and without any lawful justification.

    Penalties for Extortion

    The crime of Extortion is a Second Degree Felony in Florida and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

    Extortion is assigned a Level 6 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code. A judge may sentence a person convicted of Extortion to probation, but may also sentence the person up to the statutory maximum of 15 years in prison.

    Defenses to Extortion

    In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of Extortion are:

    Idle Threats

    It is a defense to the crime of Extortion if it can be shown that the threat was never intended to actually reach the intended person, but was an idle threat.

    An example would be if, in passing, you told a third-party you would expose a mutual friend's affair unless he repaid a debt. Since the threat was not intended to be passed on, there was no crime of Extortion. [2]

    Litigation Privilege

    Known as the Litigation Privilege, a lawyer may make written demands of another party without fear of being prosecuted or sued for extortion, even if these same demands would constitute the crime of extortion if made by the lawyer's client.

    The basis for this privilege is that a lawyer should be free to act on their own best judgment in prosecuting or defending a lawsuit without fear of later having to defend against an action for something said or written during the litigation. [3]

    Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

    If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Extortion in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

    The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

    References

    1. Florida Statute 836.05
    2. Calamia v. State, 125 So. 3d 1007 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013)
    3. Wassenberg, PA v. Zuckerman, 545 So. 2d 309 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989)