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Texas Extortion Laws

Overview of Texas Extortion Laws

Texas extortion law charges the crime as theft (see Texas Theft Laws). Extortion occurs when an individual 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 in the absence of evidence.

In the similar crime of bribery, an individual offers or accepts something of value in exchange for influence on a public official or employee. Additionally, extortion charges often are related to the types of criminal enterprises targeted by racketeering laws.

Defenses to Extortion Charges

  • Mistake
  • 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 extortion laws offer a wide variety of penalties. The factor that determines the severity of the punishment if convicted 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 Laws: 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 a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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