Extortion is a criminal offense whereby the defendant illegally gains property or funds through threats, bribes, or character defamation. Threats to do bodily injury, threats to expose harmful information, threats to accuse the victim of a crime are just a few examples for extortion.
The two most obvious types of extortion are bribery and blackmail. Bribery is the crime of giving something of value to influence the conduct of a person, who is generally a public official. Accepting a bribe also constitutes a crime. Blackmail is extortion by threatening another person with the disclosure of harmful or secret information that would damage that person’s reputation if released.
Generally, receiving proceeds of extortion is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. A person shall be imprisoned for not more than three years or fined or both if the person receiving the proceeds has knowledge that it is unlawfully obtained.
The crime of extortion is different from crimes of robbery or corruption. Robbery is the crime of taking another’s possessions by the use of force. Corruption involves the persuasion of legislators and is a separate crime from extortion.
The Hobbs Act is a U.S. federal law that prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. The Act defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his or her consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right”.