Colorado Revised Statute § 18-3-207 defines criminal extortion as threatening someone as a means of getting that person to do (or refrain from doing) something against his or her will. Also called blackmail, criminal extortion is generally treated as a class 4 felony carrying 2 to 6 years in prison and/or $2,000 to $500,000. But penalties increase if the case involved a deadly weapon or caused serious injuries.
In this article, we will quote the full language of the code section, and then provide legal analysis. CRS § 18-3-207 reads as follows:
(1) A person commits criminal extortion if:
(a) The person, without legal authority and with the intent to induce another person against that other person’s will to perform an act or to refrain from performing a lawful act, makes a substantial threat to confine or restrain, cause economic hardship or bodily injury to, or damage the property or reputation of, the threatened person or another person; and
(b) The person threatens to cause the results described in paragraph (a) of this subsection (1) by:
(I) Performing or causing an unlawful act to be performed; or
(II) Invoking action by a third party, including, but not limited to, the state or any of its political subdivisions, whose interests are not substantially related to the interests pursued by the person making the threat.
(1.5) A person commits criminal extortion if the person, with the intent to induce another person against that other person’s will to give the person money or another item of value, or with the intent to induce another person against that other person’s will to perform an act or to refrain from performing a lawful act, threatens to report to law enforcement officials the immigration status of the threatened person or another person.
(2) A person commits aggravated criminal extortion if, in addition to the acts described in subsection (1) of this section, the person threatens to cause the results described in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section by means of chemical, biological, or harmful radioactive agents, weapons, or poison.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “substantial threat” means a threat that is reasonably likely to induce a belief that the threat will be carried out and is one that threatens that significant confinement, restraint, injury, or damage will occur.
(4) Criminal extortion, as described in subsections (1) and (1.5) of this section, is a class 4 felony. Aggravated criminal extortion, as described in subsection (2) of this section, is a class 3 felony.
Our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will now discuss the following:
- 1. What is the legal definition of “criminal extortion” in Colorado?
- 2. What is aggravated extortion under CRS 18-3-207?
- 3. What is the punishment?
- 4. What are the penalties for aggravated criminal extortion?
- 5. What are some defenses?
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 or physical harm,
- Damage someone’s property or reputation;
- 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.1
Examples of threats covered by the extortion statute include:
- 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.2
A “substantial threat” is one that is:
- Reasonably likely to induce a belief in the threatened person that the threat will be carried out, and
- Threatens significant confinement, restraint, injury, or damage.
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.
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 the 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.
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 aggravated criminal extortion is also classified as a violent crime, the penalty increases to:
- A mandatory sentence of 10-32 years in the Department of Corrections, and
- A possible fine of $3,000-$750,000.
Note that prosecutors have a three-year statute of limitations to press extortion charges in Colorado.4
Common defenses to extortion and aggravated extortion charges include:
- You didn’t threaten anyone,
- You were only joking or venting frustration,
- Your threat was not a substantial threat,3
- 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,5
- You were falsely accused,
- You were the victim of mistaken identification, or
- Peace officer misconduct: The police obtained evidence during an illegal search and seizure, coerced your confession or otherwise violated your rights.
As long as the district attorney cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dismissed.
Call us for help…
Facing criminal charges for a felony or misdemeanor in Colorado? Our criminal defense attorneys serve clients throughout the state, including Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe, Boulder, and more. We offer free consultations on your criminal case.
Arrested in California? Go to our page on California extortion laws (PC 210).
Arrested in Nevada? Go to our page on Nevada extortion laws (NRS 205.320).