Penal Code 526 PC - Extortion by a Fake Court Order

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.

In particular, the statute states:

“Any person, who, with intent to obtain from another person any property or other consideration, delivers or causes to be delivered to the other person any paper, document or written, typed or printed form purporting to be an order or other process of a court, or designed or calculated by its writing, typing or printing, or the arrangement thereof, to cause or lead the other person to believe it to be an order or other process of a court, when in fact such paper, document or written, typed or printed form is not an order or process of a court, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and each separate delivery of any paper, document or written, typed or printed form shall constitute a separate offense.

Note that “extortion,” per Penal Code 518, is the act of obtaining something of value through force or threats.

Examples of illegal acts under this statute are:

  • Ted delivers a fake court order to his ex-girlfriend stating she must pay a fine for failing to attend jury duty.
  • Roberto has a friend deliver a fake court document to his neighbor saying that he must make a payment to avoid being arrested.
  • Nia delivers a dummy court paper to her teacher which demands payment for committing a noise violation.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused under PC 526. These include showing that:

  • the defendant made no threat,
  • there was no court order, and/or
  • the defendant was falsely accused.

Penalties

A violation of Penal Code 526 is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to an infraction or a California felony). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

Note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man surprised by document
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

1. What is the legal definition of extortion by a fake court order under Penal Code 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.

In particular, a defendant commits a crime under this statute if:

  1. he commits extortion, and
  2. does so by means of delivering, or causing to be delivered, any paper or document “purporting to be an order or some other process of a court.”1

Note that “extortion,” per California Penal Code 518, is the act of obtaining something of value through force or threats.

Please also note that that for a crime to take place under PC 526, it does not matter whether the defendant ever actually obtained anything of value from the alleged "victim." All that matters is that the accused sent or delivered a fake court order.

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 526 violations?

A person can try to challenge a PC 526 accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense may work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to Penal Code 526 charges include:

  1. no threat
  2. no court order, and/or
  3. falsely accused.

2.1. No threat

Please recall that a defendant can only be convicted of a PC 526 charge if he committed extortion – which means getting something of value via a threat. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he did not threaten another party.

2.2. No court order

Please also recall that a person can only be guilty of extortion by a fake court order if the party actually sent or delivered a dummy court paper or document. It is a valid legal defense, therefore, for the defendant to show that, even though he may have threatened another person, he did not do so via a forged court order.

2.3. Falsely accused

Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations. People get falsely accused out of

  • jealousy,
  • revenge, and
  • anger.

Thus, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that a party falsely accused him of violating Penal Code 526.

man being led to jail
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 526 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.2

Note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to extortion by a fake court order. These are:

  1. extortion of signature – PC 522,
  2. extortion by threatening letter – PC 523, and
  3. robbery – PC 211.

4.1. Extortion of signature – PC 522

Penal Code 522 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion, or blackmail, by means of obtaining a signature.

A violation of Penal Code 522 is charged as a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for two, three, or four years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.3

4.2. Extortion by threatening letter

Penal Code 523 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion, or blackmail, by means of a threatening letter.

This crime is committed if:

  1. the defendant sent or delivered a threatening letter or other writing to another person;
  2. in the letter, the defendant threatened to do any of the following:

a. unlawfully injure the other person, a third party, or their property,

b. accuse the other person, or that person's relative or family member, of a crime, OR

c. expose a secret about the other person or that person's relative or family member; AND

  1. when sending or delivering the letter, the defendant intended to use this threat to obtain money, property, or an official act from the other person.4

A violation of Penal Code 522 is charged as a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for two, three, or four years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.5

4.3. Robbery – PC 211

Penal Code 211 is the California statute that makes robbery a crime.

Per PC 211, robbery takes place when a person takes property from another person, against that person's will, by using force or fear.6

Robbery is a felony and carries a potential California state prison sentence of anywhere from two to nine years.7

Were you accused of extortion by a fake court order in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Penal Code 526, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 526 PC. This code section states as follows: “Any person, who, with intent to obtain from another person any property or other consideration, delivers or causes to be delivered to the other person any paper, document or written, typed or printed form purporting to be an order or other process of a court, or designed or calculated by its writing, typing or printing, or the arrangement thereof, to cause or lead the other person to believe it to be an order or other process of a court, when in fact such paper, document or written, typed or printed form is not an order or process of a court, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and each separate delivery of any paper, document or written, typed or printed form shall constitute a separate offense.”

  2. See same.

  3. California Penal Code 520 PC.

  4. CALCRIM 1831 - Extortion by Threatening Letter

  5. California Penal Code 520 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 211 PC.

  7. California Penal Code 213 PC.

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