Colorado Criminal Extortion
( 18-3-207 C.R.S.)

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What is criminal extortion?

You commit criminal extortion when you threaten someone in order to get that person or another person to do (or refrain from doing) something against his or will. A more common word for criminal extortion is blackmail.

Criminal extortion -- and its more serious counterpart, aggravated criminal extortion -- is a crime under section 18-3-207 of the Colorado Revised Code (C.R.S.).

Criminal extortion / blackmail penalties

Criminal extortion is a usually a Colorado class 4 felony. Consequences of a conviction can include:

  • 2-6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole), and/or 
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

However, punishment for criminal extortion increases significantly if:

  • You use or possess a deadly weapon or the crime results in someone being killed or seriously injured (making it a “crime of violence”), or
  • You threaten the use of chemical, biological, or harmful radioactive agents, weapons, or poison (“aggravated extortion”).

To help you better understand 18-3-207 C.R.S., Colorado's extortion law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

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1. The legal definition of “criminal extortion” in Colorado

You commit the Colorado crime of criminal extortion when, in order to induce another person to do something against his or her will, to refrain from performing a lawful act, or to give you money or anything else of value, you make a substantial threat against that person or someone else to:

  • Confine or restrain someone,
  • Cause economic hardship to someone,
  • Cause someone to suffer bodily injury,
  • Damage someone's property or reputation;

AND

  • You threaten such consequences by:
    • Performing or causing an unlawful act to be performed; or
    • Invoking action by a third party -- including, but not limited to, law enforcement or other government officials – whose interests are not substantially related to your interests in making the threat.

Examples of threats covered by Colorado's criminal extortion statute include (but are not limited to):

  • Threatening to harm someone's family member or pet,
  • Threatening to make embarrassing facts publicly known,
  • Threatening to ruin someone's business,
  • Threatening to break someone's legs,
  • Threatening to burn someone's house down,
  • Threatening to report someone's immigration status to law enforcement, or
  • Threats made in an effort to collect a legally enforceable debt.1

1.1. What constitutes a “substantial threat”?

A “substantial threat” is one that is:

  • Reasonably likely to induce a belief that the threat will be carried out, and 
  • Threatens significant confinement, restraint, injury, or damage.

2. What is aggravated extortion?

You commit aggravated criminal extortion if, in addition to any of the acts described above, the threats include the use of chemical, biological, or harmful radioactive agents, weapons, or poison.

3. Penalties for criminal extortion

Criminal extortion is generally a Colorado class 4 felony. Possible punishment for Colorado criminal extortion includes:

  • 2-6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole), and/or 
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

However, criminal extortion becomes a Colorado “crime of violence” if during commission of the crime or immediate flight therefrom:

  • You use, threaten the use of, or possess a deadly weapon, or
  • Someone other than a co-conspirator is killed or seriously injured.

As a crime of violence, penalties for criminal extortion include:

  • A mandatory prison sentence of 5-16 years (followed by 3 years mandatory parole), and
  • A possible fine of $2,000-$500,000.

4. Penalties for aggravated criminal extortion

Aggravated criminal extortion is a Colorado class 3 felony. It carries potential penalties of:

  • 4-12 years in prison (with 5-years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

However, if the aggravated criminal extortion is also classified as a Colorado violent crime, the penalty increases to:

  • A mandatory sentence of 10-32 years in prison, and
  • A possible fine of $3,000-$750,000.

5. Defenses to criminal extortion charges

Common defenses to Colorado extortion and aggravated extortion charges include (but are not limited to):

  • You didn't threaten anyone,
  • You were only joking or venting frustration,
  • Your threat was not a substantial threat,
  • You had no actual means to carry out your threat (and the alleged victim knew that),
  • You were not trying to coerce the alleged victim into doing or refraining from doing something,
  • You were falsely accused,
  • You were the victim of mistaken identification, or
  • The police obtained evidence during an illegal search and seizure, coerced your confession or otherwise violated your rights.

Call us for help…

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Charges of criminal extortion can often be a form of blackmail or revenge in and of themselves. Or apparently threatening language made as a joke or said in anger can be misunderstood.

Whatever the reason for the charges, our caring Colorado criminal lawyers are ready to hear your side of the story. We'll make sure the prosecutor and, if necessary, the jury understands it, too.

Just because you've been accused of extortion or aggravated extortion, it doesn't mean you will be convicted. Contact us for a free consultation today to find out how we can help you fight the charges.

We can be reached confidentially using the form on this page, or at our conveniently located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal resources:

  1. People v. Rosenberg (1978) 572 P.2d 1211, 194 Colo. 423.

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