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NYS Blackmail & Extortion Crimes: FAQ

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'Sextortion' attacks on the rich and famous are on the rise. Here's how their lawyers discreetly fight back.

Is Blackmail a crime, what qualifies as Extortion, does Revenge Porn fall under the same umbrella, and what should I do if someone tries to victimize me? What are the consequences and penalties of Extortion, and do I need a Blackmail lawyer or should I just go to the police? While the questions are many and the responses different depending on the circumstances, understanding your rights and options, and securing the assistance of a legal advocate and attorney experienced in this unique area of law will provide you with the foundation to make the right decisions whether you pursue justice and an end to your victimization inside or outside the criminal system.

What are Blackmail and Extortion

In New York, these are two different names for the same offense, although the latter is the legal term used for crimes committed in violation of Penal Law 155.05(2)(e), 155.30(6), and 155.40(2). A form of theft, Grand Larceny by Extortion is always a crime.

Distinct from the similar offense of Coercion, a person commits this crime when he or she scares another into handing over property, usually money, due to some type of threat or because the targeted person is placed under duress. Although broken out into specific subsections, these threats can include causing a physical injury to another person, causing damage to property, or committing a crime. Additionally, a blackmailer may attempt to or in fact secure property by instilling in his or her target a fear that if they do not pay, for example, the extorter will accuse them of wrongdoing, expose a secret or fact that will likely subject them to contempt or ridicule regardless of its veracity, or the victimizer will perform an act that serves no benefit to him or her but would hurt the targeted person's personal or business reputation.

Is it Against the Law to Blackmail Someone?

In simplest of terms, yes.

Is Extortion a Crime?

Yes. This type of theft is a felony and runs afoul of either or both Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Penal Law 155.30(6), or Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Penal Law 155.40(2). Additionally, other degrees of Grand Larceny are applicable depending on the value of the property obtained.

Is Blackmail a Felony

Yes. While the value of the property and whether violence or threats are part of the conduct may impact the potential penalty and punishment, this offense is always a felony.

What is the Penalty for Blackmail

In New York State, theft by Extortion is always a class “E” felony with a potential sentence of up to four years in prison. If, for example, intimidation involves the use of a firearm or to cause some form of physical injury, then the offenses rises to a class “C” felony with an exposure of as great as fifteen years incarceration. Generally speaking, however, the penalty is tied to the amount or value of the property illegally obtained and is broken out into in thresholds in excess of $1,000.00, $3,000.00, $50,000.00 and $1million. For each of these values, the respective offenses are Penal Law 155.30(1), 155.35(1), 155.40(2) and 155.42(1) with a correlating term of imprisonment of up to four, seven, fifteen, and twenty-five years.

Must a Person go to Jail for Blackmail

No. While the crime is punishable by time in state prison in New York, depending on the allegations and ultimate finding of guilt, incarceration is not mandatory for thefts less than $1 million. Instead, probation, for example, is a possible sentence. Practically speaking, do not mistake a lack of required jailing with limited or no chance of imprisonment. Finding one’s self behind bars is not uncommon.

Is Blackmail a Federal Offense or a New York Crime

Both state and federal law allows for prosecution of these offenses under the NYS Penal Law as well as the United States Code. This means an Assistant District Attorney or an Assistant United States Attorney could prosecute this wrongdoing in either state or federal courts.

How do I Report Someone for Blackmail

If you are the victim in New York State or NYC, you can report the incident to your local police department. Alternatively, you can retain counsel to assist you to circumvent the police in certain situations and report your victimization directly to prosecutors.

Do I have to Report My Extortion to Law Enforcement or are there Other Options

Because there may be “facts” that could expose a victim of shame, embarrassment, and a host of collateral issues involving their familial and business relationships, some individuals, such as clients of Saland Law, routinely seek to put an end to Extortion by seizing control of the situation with the assistance and advocacy of counsel. In these situations where privacy is paramount, our attorneys can “wire up” our clients, arrange for controlled calls, have our former NYPD detectives confront a harasser within the four corners of the law, and provide them with our cease and desist memos. Additionally, should the need arise, the Family Court may provide recourse by way of an Order of Protection. Ultimately, how a victim proceeds is entirely up to him or her, but educating yourself on the law and retaining an attorney can be – and often is - your best asset no matter the approach you take.

Call the New York State criminal defense lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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