|You are here: Information Center >> Criminal Law >> Specific Offenses >> Blackmail or Extortion|
Blackmail or Extortion
Laws define blackmail, a felony crime, broadly. The term "blackmail" has been replaced in most statutes with extortion. The term applies to any person who extorts or exacts money for the purpose of influencing an individual to perform a duty or to prevent an injury. A person who threatens to tell a co-worker's wife he is having an affair unless he pays her a sum of money is committing extortion. Unlike robbery, the money or property changes hands with the victim's consent.
Extortion involving public officials who obtain payments to which they are not entitled and where interstate commerce is affected is prohibited by the Hobbs Act. A person holding herself out as a public official (without actually holding an office) in order to gain some benefit, can also be prosecuted under the Act. For example, a former mayor cannot pretend to still be in office in order to get free dinners at a restaurant.