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Is Extortion Actually a Crime in Maryland?

The word “extortion” often conjures up a scene in a mob movie where organized crime is shaking down a shopkeeper for “protection” money. The truth, however, is that extortion covers a much broader category of threats and actions. Extortion is essentially a criminal form of blackmail–and a person may be charged, tried, and convicted even if they never act upon a threat.

How Maryland Criminal Law Defines Extortion

The general definition of extortion under Maryland Criminal Law is to “obtain, attempt to obtain, or conspire to obtain money, property, labor, services, or anything of value from another person with the person’s consent,” when that consent is obtained through certain acts or threats, including the following:

  • Force or violence;
  • Economic injury;
  • Destruction or confiscation of an immigration or identification document when the intent is to harm a person’s immigration status; or
  • Notifying law enforcement about a person’s immigration status.

Obviously, threatening to injure someone if they do not give you money would qualify as extortion. But so would “economic injury,” such as threatening harm to their business or professional interests. Furthermore, extortion need not always take the form of cash. It can include any form of “property, labor, or services” obtained through threats.

In that sense, extortion is a type of theft offense. As such, the severity of an extortion charge typically depends on the value of the property, labor, or services wrongfully acquired by the defendant. For example, if the extortion is for between $10,000 and $100,000, it is a felony subject to a maximum prison term of 15 years and a $15,000 fine.

Special Cases (and Exceptions) Involving Extortion

There are other specific types of extortion defined in Maryland law. One common case is threatening to falsely accuse someone of a crime unless they pay money. Maryland Criminal Law states that any such threat that would “tend to bring the [subject] into disrepute” if the accusation were true is a misdemeanor offense. That said, it still carries a possible 10-year sentence.

Maryland also has specific laws against so-called sextortion or “revenge porn.” Here, a person breaks the law if they use threats to either coerce someone in engage in sexual activity, or participate in a “visual representation or performance” that depicts the person’s “intimate parts” or simulates sexual activity. Conviction of this offense also carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

It should be noted there are also exceptions to the general definitions of extortion. The law specifically exempts “picketing in connection with a labor dispute” from criminal sanctions. It is also normally not considered extortion to threaten to file a legitimate, non-frivolous lawsuit against someone unless they agree to pay you money. But as discussed above, making false accusations against someone would be considered extortion.

Contact Waldorf Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.