Florida Extortion Laws
Overview of Florida Extortion Laws
Extortion, also known as blackmail, describes a threat made in order to take another person's money or property, or to compel another person to act or not act. The threat must be sufficient to overcome the victim's free will. Extortion and robbery are distinct crimes because robbery generally requires an immediate threat of physical harm at the time when the perpetrator takes the property, while extortion simply requires a threat at any time.
A Florida state prosecutor must establish several elements to prove an extortion case:
- Threat: The prosecutor must prove that the defendant made a verbal or written threat. The threat might imply physical harm death, or even psychological harm to the recipient of the threat, to another person, or to property, if the victim does not comply. Alternatively, the defendant might threaten to reveal a secret, accuse the victim of a crime, or otherwise harm the threatened person's reputation. Under Florida law, the defendant may threaten to do either an unlawful or lawful act. Extortion can include the threat of a legal act, as long as the prosecutor can show that the defendant acted maliciously.
- Intent: The prosecutor must show that the defendant had an intent to gain financially, receive property, or otherwise compel the victim to do any act against the victim's will. However, Florida law does not require an intent to actually carry out the threat or an ability to perform the threatened act.
Florida state laws distinguish between extortion by a public officer and extortion by a private person. If a public officer committed extortion, the offense requires the officer to actually take money or gain financially from the threat. Public officers include police, peace officers, lawyers with state-issued licenses, court clerks, and other state officials.
Defenses to Extortion Charges
- Threat made in self-defense, defense of another person, or defense of property
Penalties and Sentences
Extortion is a second degree felony in Florida. A conviction can result in term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine in an amount up to $10,000, or both. However, the state may be able to request an increased punishment if the defendant has a criminal record with prior felonies or qualifies as a habitual felony offender.
Florida Extortion Statute
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.