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Extortion versus blackmail

If you are a fan of some of the cop shows on television, then you know that the terms “blackmail” and “extortion” are sometimes used interchangeably. In reality, however, although they are somewhat similar in nature, extortion and blackmail are actually two very different types of crime.

Extortion is primarily defined as using force or the threat of force in order to obtain property or money. These threats typically involve the possibility of violence or damage to property if the property or money is not received. The threats can also be posed as a promise to damage or harm one’s reputation or to cause an unfavorable government action. For instance, a contractor who is not following city codes correctly could be told by a building inspector that they will have their building permit revoked if the inspector does not receive a certain amount of money “under the table.”

Blackmail, on the other hand, is typically a threat made by a person in an attempt to gain something of perceived value. The value does not necessarily even need to have a monetary component. Instead, it could involve sexual favors. As an example, an employer could threaten to turn in a worker as an illegal immigrant if the worker does not perform sexual acts.

Although extortion and blackmail are generally considered crimes that are governed by state law, it is important to note that if you have used interstate commerce, such as the telephone or the postal service to commit an act of extortion, you could face stiffer penalties under a federal law known as The Hobbs Act.

Defendants who are facing criminal charges for extortion may find it beneficial to seek counsel with an experienced Wisconsin criminal attorney to assist with establishing a strong criminal defense.

Source: Quick and Dirty Tips, “What is the Difference Between Extortion and Blackmail?” Adam Freeman, Dec. 08, 2014

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