Penal Code 524 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to attempt, by means of threats, to extort property or money from another person. If the person is successful in obtaining the property or money, then he or she is liable for extortion, per Penal Code 518 PC.
Attempted extortion can lead to felony charges in California.
The language of PC 524 states that:
Every person who attempts, by means of any threat…to extort property or other consideration from another is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not longer than one year or in the state prison or by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Examples of Attempted Extortion
- threatening to tell a lover’s spouse of an extramarital affair unless he/she pays $10,000 (but the person does not pay the money).
- warning a person that his sibling is in danger if the person does not hand over a deed to property (but the person does not hand it over).
- threatening someone to disclose a secret to the media unless the person pays cash (but the person does not pay any money).
A person accused of attempted extortion can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. Three effective defenses include the defendant showing that he/she:
A misdemeanor conviction of attempted extortion is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.
A felony conviction is punishable by a prison term of up to three years.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following in this article:
- 1. How does California law define “attempted extortion”?
- 2. Are there legal defenses?
- 3. What are the penalties for Penal Code 524 PC?
- 4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
- 5. Are there any related crimes?
1. How does California law define “attempted extortion”?
A prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime to successfully convict a person of attempted extortion:
- he/she made an attempt to extort property or money from another person, and
- the attempt was made by means of any threat.1
The threat made can include a threat to harm:
- a person directly, or
- some other third person (e.g., a family member).2
Note that a person is only guilty of this crime if he/she acts with an intent to commit extortion.3
If a person is successful in extorting something of value, then he/she is guilty of extortion rather than attempted extortion.4
These cases often involve sending a threatening letter to a public official or other government official in an attempt to blackmail them. A person can be convicted of attempted extortion even if there is ultimately no wrongful use of force or obtaining of property.
2. Are there legal defenses?
There are three effective criminal defense strategies to fight accusations under this statute. These include the defendant showing that he/she:
- did not threaten anyone.
- was falsely accused.
- was entrapped.
2.1 No threat
Recall that a person is only guilty under this statute if he/she attempts to extort property or money by means of threats. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she did not threaten anyone.
2.2 Falsely accused
Unfortunately, people get falsely accused of attempted extortion all the time. Reasons for these false accusations may include:
- revenge, and
A defense, then, is for a defendant to show that he/she was unjustly blamed. If there is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant was the perpetrator, the attempted extortion charge should be dropped.
Entrapment is a defense that applies when a person gets charged with attempted extortion after an undercover sting operation. The defense asserts that the accused only committed a crime because law enforcement authorities lured him/her into doing so. The defense only works, though, if the defendant shows that he/she only committed a crime because of the entrapment.
3. What are the penalties for Penal Code 524 PC?
California law says that a violation of PC 524 is a wobbler offense. A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
A misdemeanor attempted extortion conviction is punishable by:
- custody in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to one year, and/or
- a fine of up to $10,000.5
A felony attempted extortion conviction is punishable by:
- a maximum prison sentence of three years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.6
Note that for either a misdemeanor or felony conviction, a judge has the authority to award a defendant with misdemeanor or felony probation in lieu of jail time.
4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
A person convicted in an attempted extortion case can get the conviction expunged, per Penal Code 1203.4 PC.
This is provided that the convict successfully completes:
- his/her jail term, or
- probation (whichever was imposed).
5. Are there any related crimes?
There are three criminal offenses related to attempted extortion. These are:
- extortion – PC 518,
- extortion by fake court order – PC 526, and
- attempted crimes – PC 664.
5.1 Extortion – PC 518
Penal Code 518 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of extortion (also sometimes referred to as blackmail).
A person commits this offense when he or she uses means of force or threats to compel another person to hand over money or property.
Unlike attempted extortion, a defendant must actually receive money or property to be guilty of this crime.
5.2 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, or blackmail, by means of a fake court order.
A person that attempts to commit this crime, but fails in receiving anything of value, is guilty of attempted extortion by means of a fake court order.
5.3 Attempted crimes – PC 664
Penal Code 664 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to attempt to commit a criminal act. An attempted crime is defined as a person trying to break the law but failing to do so.
With PC 524, a person tries to break PC 518, the California law on extortion but does not succeed.
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide a free consultation and legal advice you can trust.
We represent clients throughout California State, including those in Los Angeles County, Riverside, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Orange County, and Ventura.
- California Penal Code 524 PC. See also People v. Toledano (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 715. See also CALCRIM 1830. See also People v. Hesslink (1985) 167 Cal.App.3d 781, 213 Cal.Rptr. 465; People v. Baker (1978) 88 Cal.App.3d 115, 151 Cal.Rptr. 362; People v. Cadman (1881) 57 Cal. 562; People v. Kozlowski (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 853, 117 Cal.Rptr.2d 504; People v. Goodman (1958) 159 Cal.App.2d 54, 323 P.2d 1206; People v. Peck (1919) 43 Cal.App. 638, 185 P. 881; People v. Mayfield (1997) 14 Cal.4th 668, 60 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 928 P.2d 485; People v. Norris (1985) 40 Cal.3d 51, 219 Cal.Rptr. 7, 706 P.2d 1141; People v. Schmitz (1908) 7 Cal.App. 330, 94 P. 407; People v. Beggs (1918) 178 Cal. 79, 83-172 P. 152; People v. Sales (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 741, 10 Cal.Rptr.3d 527; People v. Franquelin (1952) 109 Cal.App.2d 777, 241 P.2d 651; Isaac v. Superior Court (1978) 79 Cal.App.3d 260, 146 Cal.Rptr. 396; People v. Serrano (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 1672, 15 Cal.Rptr.2d 305.
- People v. Hopkins (1951) 105 Cal.App.2d 708.
- People v. Ochoa (2016 DjDAR 9203).
- See California Penal Code 518 PC.
- California Penal Code section 524 PC.
- See same. See also California Penal Code 1170h PC.