Texas Extortion Laws
Overview of Texas Extortion Laws
Under Texas law, extortion falls under the law criminalizing theft. Extortion is when the defendant gains property or money by some type of force or threat of violence, property damage, harm to reputation or unfavorable government action. The difference between this kind of threat and robbery is that the victim is not placed in imminent (or immediate) fear of physical danger. Instead, the threatened conduct could occur sometime in the future and could affect things other than the victim's physical body, such as his or her reputation.
- Example: Bob goes to Joe's home and threatens to vandalize Joe's brand new car if Joe does not pay Bob $1,000. Bob agrees to pay Joe because he fears that Joe will in fact damage his new car.
Proving extortion can be difficult without some type of audio or video recording of the threat made since it can end up being one person's word against the other without this kind of evidence.
Defenses to Extortion Charges
- Lack of intent to deprive the owner of the property
- Consent was given by the owner of the property
NOTE: Entrapment is not a defense. Under this law, it is not a defense that law enforcement solicited, provided the facility for or deceived or strategized to get the defendant to commit the crime.
Penalties and Sentences
Texas offers a wide variety of penalties for the crime of extortion. The factor that determines the severity of the punishment if convicted on a charge of extortion is the amount or value of the goods, services or cash that the defendant gains from the crime. For the smallest amounts ($50 and under), the charge will be a "Class C" misdemeanor carrying a penalty of a simple fine of up $500. The most serious charge will be for stealing $200,000 or more in goods, services or cash. This is considered a first degree felony and can be punishable by five to ninety-nine years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas Extortion Statute
Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 31
Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 31 (scroll down for section dealing with theft)
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.