Under Florida criminal statute 836.05 [Threats; extortion], extortion can be in the form of a written or verbal threat or communication. The communication may be in printed form such as an email, letter, or blog.
Whenever a suspect:
- maliciously threatens to accuse another of a crime, or
- maliciously threatens an injury to the person, property, or reputation of another, or
- maliciously threatens to expose another to disgrace, or
- maliciously threatens to impute any deformity or lack of chastity to another,
with the intent to extort any money or any pecuniary advantage OR with the intent to compel the threatened person (or any other person), to do any act or refrain from doing any act against his or her will commits the criminal offense of extortion.
Extortion is a 2nd degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison. Extortion is a Level 6 offense under Florida’s Sentencing Guidelines Scoresheet and scores 36 points. If someone scores 44 points or more, they score a prison sentence under the criminal sentencing guidelines. Even if the defendant does not score at least 44 points under the Florida sentencing guidelines, they can still be sentenced to prison time up to the maximum which would be 15 years for the crime of extortion.
So what types of threats are considered to be extortion?
“Maliciously” means wrongfully, intentionally, and without legal justification or excuse. A threat is “malicious” for purposes of extortion statute if it is made intentionally and without any lawful justification. It is not necessary that the person accused of extortion have the ability to carry the threat out. Threats to cause mental or psychological injuries are generally prohibited under extortion statute. Generally a claim of extortion cannot be baseded on a threat to do an act which a person has a lawful right to do, but you may not threaten to undertake an otherwise legal act for your own pecuniary advantage.
Therefore, if you threatened to expose someone’s affair to their spouse unless they paid you $1,000,000, the threat could be considered extortion for causing a psychological injury or because it was done for a monetary gain. This would be extortion even if you did not know how to contact their spouse.
A felony is a very serious offense that can affect your freedom, ability to get a job, and reputation in the community. Under Florida Criminal Statute 775.083 [Fines], a person who has been convicted of extortion can be fined up to $10,000 because the conviction is of a felony of the second degree.
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