Theft by Extortion

New Jersey Theft by Extortion

Criminal Defense Lawyer & Former Prosecutor

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall represent individuals arrested or charged with theft by extortion in NJ. In this regard, it is illegal to threaten an individual for the purpose of obtaining money or property, that is, extort or blackmail them. The primary issue in these cases tends to be distinguishing between aggressiveness and actual extortion. If you are in need of a criminal attorney to defend an extortion charge, our law firm is prepared to assist you. Our lawyers represent individuals on these charges statewide, including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Union County, Middlesex County, Somerset County, Mercer County, Essex County and Hudson County. Please do not hesitate to contact our law office as initial consultations are always without charge and our attorneys are ready to assist you.

The NJ Theft by Extortion Law

The extortion statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5 provides as follows:

A person is guilty of theft by extortion if he purposely and unlawfully obtains property of another by extortion. A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;

b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;

c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;

d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;

e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;

f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or

g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Explanation of the Extortion Law

  1. What is Coercion? The term “coercion” as used in the statute refers to the means used to make an individual transfer his property. Coercion can be expressed either through oral or written words, or can be implied from conduct. It is also important to keep in mind that the threat of harm does not have to be unlawful such as where an attorney agrees not to foreclose on an individual’s property provided he is paid a kickback.
  2. Types of Threats: (a) Bodily harm, restraint or commission of a crime; (b) threat to file charges; (c) threat to disclose a secret; (d) threat by public official to withhold action; (e) threat of strike or boycott; (f) threat of testimony; or (g) threat to inflict harm to another.
  3. Material Elements: the state must prove the following elements to sustain an indictment for theft by extortion in NJ: (i) the accused obtained property or money of another; (ii) the property or money was obtained as a result of one of the types of threats set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5; (iii) the threat was made with the purpose of obtaining the subject property or money; and (iv) the accused’s demand for the property is illegitimate.
  4. Theft by Extortion is a Second-Degree Crime. It is also important to keep in mind that theft by extortion is always a second-degree offense.
  5. Extortion v. Criminal Coercion. The charge of theft by extortion is very similar to the charge of criminal coercion contained at N.J.S.A. 2C13-5. The distinction between the offenses rests in the object of the threat, extortion is involved where an individual’s object is to obtain property whereas coercion involves limiting an individual’s physical movement.

Individuals who are subject to investigation, have been arrested or who have been indicted for theft by extortion definitely need to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer as this is an extremely serious offense. Insofar as this offense involves a second-degree crime, it involves a presumption of incarceration in the 7-8 range. The penalties which an individual shall be subject to if convicted for theft by extortion are obviously significant and an attorney is a must. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall include a former prosecutor and others who are ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Ocean County, Essex County or Hudson County case. Lawyers are available to speak to you immediately free of charge.