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Attempted Extortion

Penal Code 524 PC - Attempted Extortion Law in California

It's illegal to extort somebody or attempt to extort them. Extortion means to use a threat of force against somebody to get them to hand over money or property.

Thus, “attempted” extortion is an incomplete act even if the perpetrator is unsuccessful in acquiring money or property through a threat. In other words, just the attempt is illegal.

Penal Code 524 PC - Attempted Extortion Law in California

California Penal Code 524 PC makes it a crime to attempt, using threats, to extort property or money from another person. If the perpetrator is successful, they could face Penal Code 518 PC extortion criminal charges.

PC 524 says, “anybody who attempts by any threat specified under Penal Code 519 to extort property or other consideration from someone is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison or by fine not greater than $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.”

To convict someone of attempted extortion, prosecutors must prove two crucial factors that are called the “elements of the crime” that the accused person:

  • Attempted to extort money or property from somebody, and
  • They used a threat in attempting.

The intent to commit extortion is insufficient to support a criminal charge unless there is a direct step to complete the crime. Further, more than arranging the means necessary to commit the crime is required.

There is no requirement that the victim suffers fear if the threat is of a nature that could reasonably have that result. Let's review this state law further below.

What Are Some Examples?

Some examples of the crime of Penal Code 524 PC attempted extortion include:

  • Making threats to expose someone who is cheating on their spouse if they don't receive a certain amount of money;
  • Making threats to harm someone's family member if they don't receive a certain amount of money, which goes unpaid;
  • Making threats to reveal an embarrassing secret about someone if a certain amount of money is not paid, but they refuse to pay it.

What are the Potential Penalties?

Attempted extortion is a wobbler that can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. If charged as a misdemeanor, then a conviction could carry the following:

  • up to one year in the county jail,
  • a fine of up to $10,000.

If the attempted extortion is charged as a felony, then a conviction carries:

  • up to three years in California state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000.

The judge can impose probation rather than jail time for a misdemeanor or felony conviction. A conviction for attempted extortion could be expunged if you are eligible.

What Are Some Related Crimes?

Numerous California statutes are related to PC 524 attempted extortion under PC 524, which are discussed below.

California Penal Code 518 PC Extortion Law

Penal Code 518 PC extortion law prohibits different types of blackmail. If you make threats and compel somebody to give you money or property based on that threat, then you could be found guilty of extortion.

Penal Code 526 PC extortion by fake court order law prohibits using a phony court order to threaten somebody or compel them to hand over money or property based on the threat in the phony court order.

If you make threats but don't receive any money or property from the threat, then you could be found guilty under PC 526.

Penal Code 664 PC attempted crimes prohibit the attempt of any criminal act. If you try to commit a specific crime but fail to complete it, your attempt can be criminally charged and carry legal penalties. 

Other types of theft-related crimes for attempted extortion include the following:  

What Are the Defenses for PC 524?  

If you are charged with attempted extortion, several common legal defenses could be used on your behalf, including:

  • No threats were made against the alleged victim,
  • False accusation,
  • Police entrapment.

Perhaps we can argue entrapment, which means someone only attempted to commit the crime because they were persuaded to do so by law enforcement. You will be required to prove that the police enticed you for this defense to be successful.

Defenses for Attempted Extortion

Perhaps we can argue that there were no threats. Recall that you can only be found guilty of violating Penal Code 524 if you attempt to extort someone by using threats. Maybe we can argue that you didn't threaten anyone.

Perhaps we can argue that the allegations are false and show that the accuser is motivated by anger, jealousy, or revenge. Maybe we can show the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Perhaps we could negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or drop the case. Early pre-filing negotiations with law enforcement and the prosecuting agency might persuade them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place (DA reject).  

Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, California. We provide legal representation across the state. You can contact us for a free case evaluation via phone or fill out the contact form.

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