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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.

In Texas, extortion is considered a serious criminal offense and is typically prosecuted under the state's theft statutes, particularly when it involves obtaining money or property through threats. Texas Penal Code defines various forms of theft that can encompass acts of extortion, such as theft by coercion. The specific statutes that may apply include Texas Penal Code Ann. §§ 31.01 to 31.07. The severity of the charge can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case, such as the amount of money or value of property involved, and the nature of the threats used. Penalties can include fines, restitution, and imprisonment. Extortion is also a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 872, which prohibits the act of demanding or receiving money or something of value in exchange for not committing a physical act of harm, damaging someone's reputation, or taking or withholding action as a public official. Federal penalties for extortion can be severe, including fines and imprisonment. Whether prosecuted at the state or federal level, the crime of extortion carries significant legal consequences.

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