Nevada Revised Statute § 205.320 defines the crime of extortion as deliberately threatening someone else’s health, property or reputation in order to gain money or influence. Extortion is the legal term for “blackmail.”
- 1 – 10 years in Nevada State Prison and/or
- up to $10,000 in fines
Getting the charges plea bargained down to a lesser offense or possibly a dismissal may be possible. Potential defense strategies include:
- there was no criminal intent,
- you made a legitimate offer, or
- you were falsely accused
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss the following extortion topics:
- 1. What is the legal definition of extortion in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. How do I fight NRS 205.320 charges?
- 4. When can the record be sealed?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. Related offenses
Extortion is another word for blackmail. The classic extortion scenario is threatening to reveal a scandalous secret about someone unless that person pays for silence.
Extortion has two “elements” that prosecutors have the burden to prove. The first element is that you have the intent to either:
- gain money or property,
- influence a public officer (such as a judge or congressman), or
- do any wrongful act
The second element is that you make a threat to either:
- accuse a person of a crime,
- injure a person or property,
- publish untruths about a person (“libel”), or
- expose any scandal or secret.1
Extortion is therefore a very broad crime that may apply to any situation where you wrongfully threaten another person to try to obtain something of value. A recent example of blackmail was when a former television producer threatened David Letterman to sell a screenplay detailing his sexual infidelity unless David Letterman paid him two million dollars.2
1.1. Extortion versus bribery versus robbery
Extortion is different from bribery and robbery. As discussed above, extortion is when Person A threatens Person B in order to make B do something for A or give A money.
In contrast, bribery is when Person A offers Person B something of value to persuade B to do something for A in return.3 Meanwhile, robbery occurs when Person A takes property from Person B by force or threats of injury.4
Extortion: John threatens to burn down Joe’s house unless Joe pays John money.
Bribery: John offers Joe a thousand dollars if Joe will vote for John in an election.
Robbery: John holds up Joe with a gun and takes Joe’s wallet.
1.2. Federal extortion laws
Blackmail is a federal crime as well as a Nevada state crime. When an extortion case allegedly involves interstate communications, prosecutors may bring criminal charges in Nevada federal court instead of state court.5
As a category B felony in Nevada, blackmail carries a punishment of:
- one to ten (1 – 10) years in prison, and/or
- up to $10,000 in fines, and
- restitution (if any)6
Note that the maximum prison term is reduced to six (6) years in cases involving “extortionate collection for debt.” This is when you cause a debtor to reasonably fear that not repaying their debt could cause either:
- physical injury to themself,
- physical injury to another person, or
- damage to their property.7
Meanwhile, if you are convicted of extortion in federal court, you face up to two (2) years in Federal Prison and/or a fine.8
Which defenses are most effective in a blackmail case depends on the specific facts. The following are some of the more common defense strategies:
- No intent.
- No extortion.
- False accusations
It is not a defense to blackmail charges that the victim did not end up getting hurt.
3.1. You had no criminal intent
Extortion is an intent crime in Nevada. Therefore, you are innocent if the prosecution fails to prove that you intentionally threatened someone in order to obtain something of value.9
Intent can be difficult for the D.A. to show because there is no foolproof way to read your mind. Typical evidence in these cases involves:
- communications by you (such as text messages),
- eyewitnesses to the alleged blackmail, and/or
- surveillance video of the alleged blackmail
3.2. You made a legitimate offer
As discussed above in section 1, extortion covers a wide variety of behaviors. Therefore, police and prosecutors sometimes mistake a legitimate contractual offer for something criminal.
Example: Jake is late on his car payments. The purchase contract says that the car dealer may take Jake’s car away if he does not pay. When the car dealer calls Jake and threatens to take his car away unless Jake pays, Jake claims the car dealer is blackmailing him. But in reality, the car dealer committed no crime. Jake contractually agreed to the consequences of not paying, which is the car dealer reclaiming the car.
As long as the state cannot show that your actions rose to the level of blackmail, the charges should be dismissed.
3.3. You were falsely accused
Angry, vengeful or misguided people have been known to accuse other people of crimes falsely. Police are supposed to investigate complaints before placing you under arrest, but sometimes they act prematurely and book innocent people.
No judge or jury may convict you of any crime unless they believe the prosecution proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defense attorney can show that you were the victim of false accusations, then the criminal charge should be dropped.
The waiting period to get an extortion conviction sealed from your criminal record is five (5) years after the case ends.10 Though there is no waiting period to pursue a seal if the extortion charge gets dismissed.11
The record seal process itself takes several weeks and a host of paperwork. Learn more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.
Extortion may be considered a crime involving moral turpitude.12 Depending on the case, crimes of moral turpitude may be deportable.
Therefore, non-citizens who are facing extortion charges in Nevada are encouraged to retain experienced legal counsel. A good attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-removable offense.
6.2. Gang crimes
Judges impose an extra sentence for gang-related felonies. However, this additional sentence may be no longer than the underlying sentence and cannot exceed 20 years. Learn more about gang crimes.14
Racketeering is activity that is conducted in furtherance of an unlawful business. Many racketeering cases involve blackmail. As a category B felony, racketeering carries five to twenty (5 – 20) years in prison and high fines.15
Coercion is when you use intimidation, deprivation, or force to get someone to do something they are not legally obligated to do. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony.16
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
If you have been arrested for the Nevada crime of extortion under NRS 205.320, please call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys or a consultation. Our goal is to try to get your charges reduced or dismissed, and if you wish we will take your case all the way to trial as well.
Arrested in California? Go to our page on Penal Code 210 PC.
Arrested in Colorado? Go to our page on Colorado extortion law.
- 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.
- Michael S. James, Lindsay Goldwert, David Letterman Reveals Extortion Plot and Confesses to Sex With Staffers, ABCNews (Oct. 1, 2009).
- See Eckert v. Tansy, 936 F.2d 444, 450 (9th Cir., 1991)(“Nevada’s robbery statute requires the actual taking “by force, violence, or fear of injury” of another’s property. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.380 (1989). Extortion, on the other hand, requires proof of either an indirect or a direct threat. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 205.320 (1989). Each offense requires proof of an additional fact that the other does not. See Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932). The two are separate crimes and separate sentences may be imposed for each violation.”); NRS 200.380.
- See, for example, NRS 207.295.
- 18 U.S.C. 875(d).
- NRS 205.320.
- 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.
- 18 U.S.C. 875(d).
- Ex parte Esden, 55 Nev. 169, 28 P.2d 132 (1934)(“An essential ingredient of the crime of blackmail as defined by the statute is the intent to extort or gain money or property, or to accomplish any of the other things mentioned, by any of the means enumerated therein. The intent to do so is the gist of the offense. The information does not expressly state this essential element, but if it contains words conveying the same meaning, it is sufficient.”).
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- 8 U.S.C. § 1227.
- NRS 200.510.
- NRS 193.168.
- NRS 207.400.
- NRS 207.190.