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Washington Extortion Defense Lawyer

Everything you need to know about the charge of Extortion 

The crime of extortion is treated as a very serious offense in Washington. It has been the focus of several Hollywood movies, mostly based on real life scenarios. 

A mobster makes his way into a mom and pop store in the neighborhood and tells them they have to pay him “protection” money. Never mind that the protection he offers is from his own actions or those of neighborhood thugs like him. 

Failure to comply may open them up to threats of bodily and proprietary damage from the hoodlum. Scenarios like this were much more common during the heyday of organized crime in the US. 

The crime of extortion is much more than this though. Under Washington and federal law, extortion occurs when someone forces another to pay them money by making threats. The threats do not have to relate to only bodily or proprietary harm. They may also relate to a threat to damage reputation. In this way, extortion is similar to blackmail.

Extortion in Washington is serious business and attracts significant consequences. If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of extortion, you should immediately contact an experienced Washington criminal law attorney. 

Attorney James Curtis, of The Curtis Firm, LLC, has the skills and experience that can make the difference in your case. As a former prosecutor he can provide a unique insight into the tactics the state might use against you and reasoned defenses to help you beat the charge. Get in touch with a qualified criminal attorney that can fight for you. 

What is considered Extortion under Washington law? 

Under the Revised Code of Washington, the crime of extortion consists in knowingly “obtain[ing] or attempt[ing] to obtain by threat, property or services of another, including sexual favors”. 

The crime exists when a perpetrator gets a victim to give up money, property or promises through coercion or threats of violence. The offense could also involve a threat of damage to finances or reputation. The definition of the offence indicates that there are four basic elements to extortion: 

  • Threats: Extortion is always based on some type of threat. It could be a threat of violence or some harmful action against the victim. However, once violence has been used, the offense is no more extortion. It becomes something more serious. Under Washington law, the threat may be verbal, non-verbal, written or through other communications. The threat may be directed towards the victim themselves or to a loved one or even to their business. 
  • Intent: The crime of extortion requires a specific intention to make another person part with property or a promise with the use of coercion. Words alone are not enough to show this intention. It should be based on the words used and the circumstances surrounding the threat. This means that there could be scenarios were a threat was issued but was not accompanied by the requisite intent. An experienced extortion attorney can help you identify if this is applicable to your case. 
  • Fear: Another significant aspect of extortion is that the threat should be able to cause fear in the victim. In essence, the threat must be capable of inducing fear and the consent of the victim, otherwise the offense is not committed. For instance, a threat to dance in front of another person may be comical or ridiculous at best. However, it is not necessary that the victim actually experiences fear. It is enough that the accused intended to cause fear and the threat was capable of causing fear. 
  • Property: Although extortion is directed at property from a victim, the term ‘property' is used loosely here. It would encompass almost anything that has value to the victim or accused. The property does not have to be physical either. It could be a promise, an act or an intangible thing such as information. 

Extortion in Washington may be punished in the first degree or in the second degree. Both offense are felonies in any case and involve significant fines, jail terms and other penalties. 

Extortion in the First Degree

In the first degree, extortion becomes even more serious. The offence is committed when it involves threats to: 

  • Cause future bodily injury to the victim or another
  • Cause physical damage to the victim's property of that of another
  • Expose some fact that subjects the victim to public hate or ridicule
  • Testify (or withhold testimony) regarding a legal issue
  • Physically confine or restrain the victim or another
  • Reveal secret information
  • Act in any other way that is intended to harm someone's safety, finances or personal relationships.

Extortion in the Second Degree

This is the less stringent of the two degrees. This offense occurs when it involves threats to: 

  • Reveal secret information 
  • Accuse someone of a crime
  • Testify (or withhold testimony) regarding a legal issue
  • Expose some fact (whether true or not) that subjects the victim to public ridicule or hatred
  • Take action (or inaction) as an official
  • Act in any other way that is intended to substantially harm someone, their economic interests or personal relationships

Is there a difference between extortion and blackmail?

You will notice that the offense of extortion seems remarkably similar to blackmail. Both offenses involve threats meant to secure the transfer of property with the coerced consent of a victim. 

However, if extortion is a step removed from robbery (since it does not involve taking by force), blackmail is two steps removed. The offense of blackmail is committed when a person obtains the transfer of property by a victim through the use of threats. 

These threats may be to damage the reputation of the victim, their economic prospects or social standing. But the threats are never as to violence or physical damage either to the body of the victim, their loved ones or property. 

Therefore, the primary difference between extortion and blackmail is that while extortion involves threats of violence, blackmail does not. 

The crime of blackmail also attracts significantly lower punishment than extortion. Under Washington laws, the maximum penalty for blackmail is imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of $1,000 or both. 

Consequences of a conviction for extortion in Washington 

As mentioned earlier, extortion in Washington is a felony, in both degrees. Felonies are considered as very serious offenses and will attract very stiff punishment under the law. 

Extortion in the second degree is treated as a Class C felony, punishable by jail terms of up to 5 years. In addition, adult offenders may face a fine of up to $10,000, instead of or in addition to imprisonment.

In the first degree, extortion is treated as a Class B felony and attracts a jail term of up to 10 years. It could also attract a fine of up to $20,000, instead of or in addition to jail time. 

What are the defenses to the charge of extortion?

Although being charged with extortion is a very serious affair, a skilled criminal law attorney can help you fight the charge. Attorney James Curtis can draw on his extensive experience as a former criminal prosecutor to help you get the charge dismissed or reduced. 

The Curtis Firm, LLC can help you identify and develop a number of defenses that may be relied upon at trial to help you defeat the charge against you. These may include: 

  • Mistake of fact 
  • Duress 
  • Incapacity 

Another possible defense to extortion in the second degree based on threats to accuse another of a crime is a reasonable belief that the person committed the crime. It is a defense here to state that the threats were only made to induce the victim to rectify their criminal action. 

Contact an experienced Washington criminal law attorney

Extortion is a serious offense and if you get convicted, you may spend a very long time in jail. If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of extortion, contact experienced criminal defense attorney James Curtis today. 

Mr Curtis is a former criminal prosecutor who is committed to using his deep experience and knowledge of prosecution strategies to help your case. Contact The Curtis Firm, LLC on 253-327-1063 to speak with a lawyer today.

Service Areas

The Curtis Firm, LLC is located in Tukwila, the midpoint between Seattle and Tacoma. We also serve clients throughout Western Washington to include Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Auburn, Seatac, Burien, Federal Way, Fife, Puyallup, Tacoma, and Lakewood.

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