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Blackmail and Extortion Crimes in Texas: What’s the Difference?

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Did you know that one of the most commonly committed online crime in 2019 was extortion? 

Both blackmail and extortion are methods of getting innocent bystanders to act in a certain way. But, what exactly are blackmail and extortion crimes in Texas? What’s the difference between the two? More importantly, what happens if you get charged with extortion or blackmail? Learn everything you need to know below.

Defining Blackmail in Texas

Blackmail happens when one person entices another to act in a certain way under the threat of releasing sensitive, private, or damaging information about the individual. In a nutshell, you can be accused of committing blackmail if you enter into a lopsided agreement and you have access to private data associated with the individual.

What if the information you’re threatening to release is completely true? Even so, that doesn’t take away the criminal aspect of your actions. If you threaten to harm the reputation, emotional state, or professional status of someone else through the release of information, then you could get charged with blackmail in Texas.

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Extortion Crimes According to Texas Law

So, what exactly are extortion crimes in Texas? Extortion happens when one person tries to obtain something valuable from someone else. To achieve their goals, they threaten to use force, abuse their position of power, or damage their property.

This type of behavior does sound a lot like a blatant robbery, but there are some differences. With extortion, the threat of bodily harm isn’t imminent or apparent. Instead, the perpetrator only threatens to do something in the future. The threatened harm doesn’t have to be physical, either. The person may only threaten to harm the person’s property or reputation.

Were you recently accused of extortion? Extortion crimes are difficult to prove in court because it’s often one person’s word against someone else’s. For that reason, you need to know what evidence the other party has against you before you start constructing your defense. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you avoid (or at least reduce) the penalties you could face if convicted.

Penalties Associated With Blackmail and Extortion Crimes in TX

In Texas, blackmail and extortion crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. They’re both considered property crimes. The severity of your charges hinges on a number of factors including:

  • The nature and types of threats issued to the victim
  • Your specific intent
  • The victim’s status (disabled, elderly, government employee)
  • The amount of emotional damage inflicted upon the victim
  • The value of the property or money exchanged

In general, your charges will be more serious when the threats were significant or the value of money or property is high.

The least serious charge you could get is a Class C misdemeanor. Even though this crime is less serious than the others, you could still get hit with fines of up to $500. You’ll only be fortunate enough to get charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the extorted good were worth less than $50. Otherwise, your charges will get upgraded.

A Class B misdemeanor is more serious. You could face up to six months in jail. You could also get slapped with fines of up to $2,000. The extorted goods must have been worth less than $100. If the good were worth between $750-$2,500, then you’ll be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This charge carries a sentence of one year in jail and $4,000 in fines.

The most serious charge you could get hit with is a first-degree felony. You’ll face significant fines of up to $10,000, and you might be sentenced to life in jail. This severe charge is usually levied when you’ve extorted over $200,000. If you get hit with a felony, then you’ll lose certain rights for life. You won’t be able to legally obtain a firearm anymore, and you won’t be able to vote.

On top of all these potential criminal charges, you could also be forced to pay restitution back to the victim. That means you’ll be on the hook for even more money. You’ll also likely be required to serve probation, too. On average, a Texan who is charged with extortion or blackmail gets about 15 years in jail.

Was your crime committed online? If so, then you could be charged with cyber-extortion or cyber-blackmail. Courtrooms may decide to levy more severe penalties to discourage others from perpetrating online crimes.

Have you been charged with blackmail or extortion in Texas? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

Blackmail and Extortion Crimes in Texas: What’s the Difference?

So, what’s the difference between extortion and blackmail in Texas? Both actions are considered crimes when the perpetrator threatens a victim to act a certain way. What differentiates the two crimes, though, is the threats directed towards the victim.

With extortion, the suspect must have threatened to commit violence, take a governmental action, destroy property, or intentionally cause reputational harm. Threats related to extortion imply that the victim will suffer dangerous physical consequences.

Blackmail, on the other hand, doesn’t involve any threat of bodily harm. There are no implied or direct threats of physical violence. Instead, the perpetrator threatens to disseminate information, which would likely cause emotional or professional harm to the victim.

So, if you threatened to release private information using a weapon, then your actions would be considered extortion rather than blackmail. That’s because the use of any type of weapon implies the threat of bodily harm.

Everything You Need to Know About Blackmail and Extortion Crimes

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between extortion and blackmail crimes in Texas. Despite that, they’re both treated differently by the law. Due to the seriousness of these charges and the potential penalties, it’s advised that you seek out legal representation if you get charged with either crime.

Are you looking for a reputable attorney to defend you against unfair blackmail or extortion crime charges in Texas? We’ve got you covered! Reach out to our experts now to discuss your situation.

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