What Is the Law on Extortion in Pennsylvania and What Are the Punishments for It?
In Pennsylvania, extortion offenses are closely related to theft, as both the offenses involve taking away an individual's personal property, whether it be tangible or intangible. However, the addition in extortion is that the blackmailer makes specific threats to the individual, bordering on coercion and intimidation, in lieu of withholding the property in question. Extortion can be committed over the phone, via text messaging, email, or in person. In addition, these threats should be very specific, and should include the following demands:
- Making the person commit a crime.
- Threatening to falsely accuse the person of committing a crime.
- Threatening to expose a secret which may bring the person ridicule, hate or contempt.
- Inflict some sort of physical or mental harm on the person.
- Taking or not taking some action as a public official, or inciting another public official to take or not take an action.
- Either falsely testify or withhold information relating to a legal case which will affect the individuals.
Value Element of Extortion
Property that can be extorted can include anything which has a monetary value, including real estate. In addition, personal property and contract rights are also included in extortion. Extortion under the state includes a vested interest by an individual in the property of another, where the individual has no rights, even if they are interested in the property. In addition to this, the person may be prevented from recovering any damages in terms of civil damages, because the property was used in a transaction that was unlawful or was subject to being forfeited.
Categories of Extortion
In Pennsylvania, the categories of extortion are usually dependent on the monetary value of the property that is being extorted. In addition to this, the circumstances revolving around the extortion and the nature of the property also play a huge role.
- The theft or extortion is counted as a misdemeanor in the first degree when there had been an intention to take the property in the former, or the fiduciary obligation had been breached in the latter.
- If the property which was converted had a monetary value from $50 to $200, then the theft or extortion is counted as a misdemeanor in the second degree.
- When property below $50 is stolen or extorted, then it is counted as a misdemeanor in the third degree.
- If the property that was stolen or coerced had a value of over $2000, the blackmailer may be charged with a third-degree felony.
Punishment for Extortion
Punishment for extortion in Pennsylvania is graded according to the value of the property which was extorted or coerced. However, if the current value of the material wealth is not known, or if the property has no current market value, then the previous or last known value of the property is taken into consideration, and the punishment for the crime is meted out according to the last known value.
- A Misdemeanor of the first degree, the blackmailer can get up to a maximum of five years in prison.
- A Misdemeanor of the second degree is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.
- A Misdemeanor of the third degree is punishable by a maximum of a year in prison.
- A third-degree felony in extortion is punishable by a maximum of 7 years in prison or a fine up to $15000. If the amount extorted was more than that, the defendant will have to pay at least double the extortion money, in order to ensure that the individual gains more than they initially lost.