Extortion & Blackmail in Oklahoma – Law & Punishment – Defense Attorney

Felony Extortion & Attempted Extortion

extortion blackmail defense lawyer oklahomaExtortion is the obtaining of property from another with the other’s consent, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.

A person has been threatened when that person has been put in fear of:

  • unlawful injury to his or her person/property
  • unlawful personal injury to his or her relatives/(family member
  • unlawful injury to the property of a relative or family member
  • accusation of a crime against him or her
  • accusation of a crime against his or her relatives/family members
  • exposure of his or her deformity/disgrace
  • imputation of a deformity in/disgrace to him or her
  • exposure of a relative’s or family member’s deformity/disgrace
  • imputation of a deformity or disgrace to a relative/family member
  • exposure of his or her secret or
  • exposure of a relative’s or family member’s secret

It’s a felony to extort or attempt to extort any money or other property from another, under circumstances not amounting to robbery, by means of force or any threat. The maximum punishment in the Department of Corrections is five years. The maximum punishment in the Department of Corrections for attempted extortion is two years. This is considered a violent crime in Oklahoma.

Misdemeanor Extortion

Elements of Oklahoma’s misdemeanor extortion crime:

  1. obtaining;
  2. property/a signature to a writing transferring property/a signature to a writing creating a
    debt, demand, charge, or right of action;
  3. of another;
  4. with the consent of the other person;
  5. under color of official right by an official misusing his or her office.

Felony extortion and misdemeanor extortion have identical elements except for the means by which the property is obtained as set forth in the fifth element. Because the crimes are committed by different means, as stated in the fifth element, misdemeanor extortion is not a lesser included offense of felony extortion.

The first element makes it clear that the defendant must obtain property or signatures before
the extortion crimes are committed. If the other elements of extortion exist but the victim has failed to deliver the property or signature, a conviction for extortion must be reversed, although a conviction for attempted extortion would be valid.

The second element indicates that property or signatures to certain documents are the subject matter meant to be protected by the extortion statutes. No cases have defined “property,” although the definition should certainly encompass personal property.

The fourth element indicates that the victim must give consent, even though the consent is given under duress. The fourth element is important because it serves in certain instances to distinguish extortion from robbery. Robbery doesn’t involve any consent of the victim, not even coerced consent.

The fifth element is the element that distinguishes felony extortion from misdemeanor extortion. In the commission of felony extortion, the defendant must have wrongfully used either force or threats. A threat to accuse one of crime falls applies whether a crime has actually been committed.

Extortion in Oklahoma overlaps robbery, to a limited extent, when the means used is either force or threat. This occurs because the definitions of “threat” and “fear,” overlap. When property is obtained by force or threat, the distinguishing element between robbery and extortion is the fourth element,
the consent of the victim. “Threat” is defined, however, much more broadly for purposes of extortion, than is “fear,” for purposes of robbery. Therefore, when property is obtained by threats the distinguishing element between robbery and extortion is primarily the means used to obtain the property, although the consent of the victim must also be proved. Felony extortion requires fear induced by threats, whereas false pretense requires lies, not threats.

For the misdemeanor extortion crime, the fifth element indicates that the means used to obtain the property or signatures must be under color of official right. The defendant must be a public officer to be convicted of misdemeanor extortion. Extortion has not been committed if the defendant lies to another that the defendant is an officer of the State. There’s also no extortion if the defendant is an employee of the State, as opposed to being an officer of the State.

The correct charge when a State employee gains or obtains property by lies relating to State business would be either larceny or false pretense.

A public officer is acting under color of official right when the officer collects a fee:

  1. for a purpose not authorized by law;
  2. in an amount larger than the authorized fee; or
  3. when none is due although the fee is authorized

Extortionate Letters

It’s illegal to, by any extortionate means, obtain from another his signature to any paper or instrument, whereby, if such signature were freely given, any property would be transferred, or any debt, demand, charge or right of action created.

This crime is punishable in the same manner as if the actual delivery of such property or payment of the amount of such debt, demand, charge or right of action were obtained. This is considered a violent crime in Oklahoma.

It’s a crime to, with intent to extort any money or other property from another, send to any person any letter or other writing, whether subscribed or not, expressing or implying, or adapted to imply, any (specified) threat.

This crime is punishable in the same manner as if such money or property were actually obtained by means of such threat.

This law makes it a crime to send a letter or other written communication to another with intent to extort. Therefore, this crime contains all the elements of the crime of extortion, except that the defendant doesn’t need to obtain the property. The first and second elements, sending a letter or written communication, substitute for obtaining property.

The first element, “sending,” is satisfied by the hand-delivery of the letter or written communication. The use of postal service is not necessary, nor is it necessary that the letter or written communication be received.

The second element requires that a letter or written communication be used to convey the threat. Verbal threats that don’t result in the transfer of property are not sufficient to constitute this crime, although unsuccessful verbal threats are sufficient to constitute the crime of attempted extortion.

If a person merely sends a threatening letter to another, but does not have the intent to extort, the appropriate charge is mailing threatening or intimidating letters, not this crime.

There’s only one substantive difference between the extortion elements of felony extortion by letter and the elements of felony and misdemeanor extortion. The seventh element indicates that the means used by the extortionist to induce consent is limited to the use of threats. Thus, a public officer who sends a letter with the intent to obtain property from another under color of official right cannot be prosecuted under this law, but would probably be subject to prosecution for attempted extortion. Moreover, this law doesn’t mention the use of force because force cannot be exerted through a letter or written communication. Of course, a threat of force is covered by the definition of “threats.”

“Personal Property” means money, goods, chattels, effects, evidences of rights in action, and written instruments effecting a monetary obligation or right or title to property.

Blackmail

Blackmail is verbally or by written or printed communication and with intent to extort or gain any thing of value from another or to compel another to do an act against his or her will:

  1. Accusing or threatening to accuse any person of a crime or conduct that would tend to degrade and disgrace the person accused;
  2. Exposing or threatening to expose any fact, report or information concerning any person that would in any way subject such person to the ridicule or contempt of society; or
  3. Threatening to report a person as being illegally present in the United States,

and is coupled with the threat that such accusation or exposure will be communicated to someone else unless the person threatened or some other person pays or delivers to the accuser or some other person something of value or does some act against his or her will.

This crime is a felony. The maximum punishment in the Department of Corrections is five years. The maximum fine is $10,000.

Sources: 21 O.S. § 1481, 1482, 1483, 1484, 1485, & 1486

Current as of April 9, 2020. Laws are subject to change at any time. See the linked statutes above for the most current law.

Charged with extortion or blackmail in Oklahoma? Call Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer Frank Urbanic in OKC for a free case consultation.

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