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Are blackmail and extortion the same thing in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

Yes, blackmail is another name for the Nevada crime of extortion.

Definition

Extortion is an extremely broad offense that encompasses any situation where someone illegally threatens another person in an effort to either:

  • obtain money, property, or something of value,
  • to influence a public officer, or
  • to do or abet an illegal act

The threat to the victim can comprise any of the following wrongful acts:

  • accusing a person of a crime,
  • injuring a person or causing property damage,
  • publishing untruths,
  • exposing or imputing to any person any deformity or disgrace, or
  • exposing any secret

Example: Paul is the CEO of a large company. His neighbor Jack knows that Paul has been having an affair with his secretary. One night Jack accosts Paul alone and says that he will tell Paul's wife about the affair unless Paul pays him a million dollars.

In the above example, Jack is blackmailing Paul. It makes no difference whether Paul pays the money to Jack, or whether Jack tells Paul's wife about the affair. Jack's act of threatening to expose Paul's secret in exchange for something of value is sufficient to invite prosecution for extortion in Nevada.

Note that extortion is a separate crime from bribery in Nevada: Extortion is when one person threatens the victim in order to make the victim do something or give something of value to the extortionist. In contrast, bribery is when a person offers someone something of value to persuade the bribee to do a favor for the briber.  For example:

Extortion:  Heather threatens to accuse Henry of a crime unless Henry gives her money.

Bribery:  Henry offers to pay Heather money if she agrees not to testify against him.

The most common way to fight blackmail charges in Nevada is to argue that the defendant lacked criminal intent. In other cases, the defendant may be able to show that what the D.A. believes is extortion is actually a legitimate offer.

Punishment

Extortion is a category B felony in Nevada. The typical sentence is:

  • One to ten (1 - 10) years in Nevada State Prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

The prison range is only one to six (1 - 6) years in cases involving "extortionate collection for debt." This occurs when a person causes a debtor to reasonably fear that failing to repay the debt could result in physical harm or property damage.

Blackmail convictions must remain on a person's criminal record for at least five (5) years before the defendant can ask the court to seal the record. However, extortion charges that get dismissed may be sealed right away.

Note that extortion is also a federal crime under 18 U.S. 875(d), carrying up to 2 years in Federal Prison. Also note that extortion may be considered a crime involving moral turpitude: This means that non-citizens convicted of it may be deported from the U.S.


Legal References

NRS 205.320  Threats.  A person who, with the intent to extort or gain any money or other property or to compel or induce another to make, subscribe, execute, alter or destroy any valuable security or instrument or writing affecting or intended to affect any cause of action or defense, or any property, or to influence the action of any public officer, or to do or abet or procure any illegal or wrongful act, whether or not the purpose is accomplished, threatens directly or indirectly:

      1.  To accuse any person of a crime;

      2.  To injure a person or property;

      3.  To publish or connive at publishing any libel;

      4.  To expose or impute to any person any deformity or disgrace; or

      5.  To expose any secret,

--> is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment. In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order the person to pay restitution.

NRS 205.322  Extortionate collection of debt.  A person who causes a debtor to have a reasonable apprehension that a delay in repaying the debt could result in the use of violence or other criminal means to:

      1.  Harm physically the debtor or any other person; or

      2.  Damage any property belonging to or in the custody of the debtor,

--> is guilty of extortionate collection of debt which is a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000. In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order the person to pay restitution.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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