Penal Code 519 PC is the California statute that provides the definition of “fear” which is one of the elements of the crime of extortion. According to this section, fear is a victim’s reaction to certain threats made by the extortionist.
For example, threatening behavior that may bring about fear for extortion includes threats to injure a person or his/her property, accuse a person of a crime, and/or link or assign a person to a deformity, disgrace, or crime.
Penal Code 518 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of extortion. A person commits this offense when he/she:
- obtains property or something else of value from a person without that person’s consent, and
- does so via the wrongful use of force or fear.
- custody in state prison for up to four years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. How does Penal Code 519 define “fear?”
- 2. What is extortion under California law?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. How does Penal Code 519 define “fear?”
Penal Code 519 says that, for purposes of extortion charges, fear is an emotion generated by certain specific threats. These include the threat to:
- do an unlawful injury to a person, his/her property, or a third person,
- accuse a person, or that person’s relative or family member, of a crime,
- expose, or to impute to a person, a deformity, disgrace, or crime (for example a DUI or a domestic violence crime),
- expose a secret affecting a person (perhaps, for example, by means of a threatening letter to someone), or
- report a person’s immigration status or suspected immigration status.
With regards to number four, a “secret” is a fact that:
- is unknown to the general public or to someone who might be interested in knowing the fact, and
- harms the threatened person’s reputation or other interest so greatly that he or she would be likely to give the defendant money or property, or do an official act, to prevent the fact from being revealed.
2. What is extortion under California law?
Penal Code 518 defines the California crime of extortion. The law says that a person commits extortion by:
- obtaining property or other consideration from another person without that person’s consent, or, obtaining an official act of a public officer, and
- doing so by means of force or fear, or under color of official right.
Note that “consideration” means anything of value, including sexual conduct.
Further, an accused can be convicted of extortion even if he/she does not actually injure the accuser, use force against that person, expose his/her secret, etc. All that matters is that the defendant threatened to do so.
Also, the threat must be the controlling reason that the other person consented. If the person or government officials consented because of some other controlling reason, the defendant is not guilty of extortion.
Finally, for purposes of this statute, “coerced consent” means that the “victim” gives something away:
- unwillingly, and
- as a result of a wrongful threat or force or fear.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of Penal Code 518 is a felony offense. The crime is punishable by:
If a person commits attempted extortion, the offense is a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to extortion. These include:
- extortion by fake court order – PC 526,
- robbery – PC 211, and
- burglary – PC 459.
4.1 Extortion by fake court order – PC 526
Penal Code 526 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion by means of a fake court order.
Note that unlike crimes under PC 518, these offenses involve documents that purport to be some order of the court.
4.2. Robbery – PC 211
California Penal Code 211 PC says a person commits the offense of robbery by:
- taking the personal property from the possession of another,
- committing the taking against the “victim’s” will, and
- accomplishing the act by means of force or fear.
Note that, unlike robbery, extortion requires the victim to consent to a taking of money or property.
4.3. Burglary – PC 459
Per Penal Code 459 PC, a person commits burglary by entering any commercial or residential structure or locked vehicle with the intent to commit:
Unlike extortion, burglary requires that the offender actually enter a structure or vehicle.
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with criminal defense lawyers, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
They also represent clients throughout California, including those in Los Angeles, Glendale, and Orange County.
 California Penal Code 519 PC.
 CALCRIM No. 1830 – Extortion by Threat or Force. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition).
 California Penal Code 518 PC.
 See same.
 CALCRIM No. 1830 – Extortion by Threat or Force.
 See same.
 California Penal Code 1170h PC.
 California Penal Code 524 PC.
 California Penal Code 211 PC.
 California Penal Code 459 PC.