Washington Extortion Laws

The crime of extortion exists when a perpetrator gets a victim to give up money or other property through coercion or threats of violence or damage to property, finances, or reputation. Blackmail is one of the most basic forms of extortion.

Degrees of Extortion in Washington

In Washington, the definition of extortion is to knowingly "obtain or attempt to obtain by threat, property or services of another, including sexual favors."

Washington recognizes two degrees of extortion: first degree and second degree. Both crimes are categorized as felonies, but the first-degree offense carries the more serious charge as a class B felony (punishable by up to 10 years in prison), rather than a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The difference in the charge depends on the type of threat involved.

Overview of Washington Extortion Laws

Although it's advisable to know every detail of a given statute, reading them in their entirety can be overwhelming and time-consuming. In addition to working with an attorney, a great way to get the gist of a statute's meaning is by reading a condensed version of the text. See the chart below for a brief explanation of the extortion laws in Washington.

Statutes

 

Extortion in the First Degree

 

First degree extortion involves threats to:

  • Cause future bodily injury to the victim or another;
  • Cause physical damage to the victim's or another's property;
  • Physically confine/restrain the victim or another;
  • Accuse someone of a crime;
  • Expose some fact (whether true or false) that subjects the victim to hatred or ridicule;
  • Reveal secret information;
  • Testify (or withhold testimony) regarding a legal issue;
  • Take action (or inaction) as an official;
  • Start a strike or boycott; or
  • Act in any other way that's intended to substantially harm the victim/another's safety, financial condition, or personal relationships.

Extortion in the Second Degree

Second degree extortion involves threats to:

  • Accuse someone of a crime;
  • Expose some fact (whether true or false) that subjects the victim to hatred or ridicule;
  • Reveal secret information;
  • Testify (or withhold testimony) regarding a legal issue;
  • Take action (or inaction) as an official; or
  • Act in any other way that's intended to substantially harm the victim/another's safety, financial condition, or personal relationships.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact
  • Duress
  • Incapacity
  • Extortion in the second degree based on threats to accuse another of a crime: The perpetrator reasonably believed the validity of the criminal charge and only threatened the person to induce them to rectify their criminal action.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Extortion Laws: Related Resources

Charged with Extortion in Washington? Speak to an Attorney

Extortion is a serious crime in Washington. If you're facing extortion charges, then you're dealing with the likelihood of time behind bars if convicted. Anytime incarceration is a possibility, you should act in your best interests by speaking to counsel. An experienced criminal defense attorney can mount a strategic defense on your behalf, whether at trial or in negotiations with the prosecution.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.