Extortion is the threatening, coercive act of demanding payment, favorable government action from a public official, or another benefit from someone in return for not doing violent, physical harm or injury to the victim or his property, or revealing compromising or damaging information about the victim (whether it is true or false), or causing unfavorable government action against the victim or his interests. Extortion (sometimes referred to as the crime of coercion or blackmail) is a criminal offense in all states and under federal law.
Extortion can occur in person, by telephone, by U.S. mail, by e-mail, by text message, through social media, or by other means of communication.
The definition and penalties for the crime of extortion vary from state to state—in some states blackmail is part of the criminal offense of extortion, and in some states blackmail and extortion are separate criminal offenses.
The crime of extortion may be prosecuted as a felony in some states—with potential prison time—or as a misdemeanor eligible for probation. The crime of extortion is usually located in a state’s statutes. And extortion is also a crime under federal law. See 18 U.S.C. §872 to 18 U.S.C. §876.