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." 
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 classified as a Second Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 6 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.
If convicted of Extortion, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:
- Up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
- Up to fifteen (15) years of probation.
- Up to $10,000 in fines.
Defenses to Extortion
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. 
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. 
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