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Posted by Vitaly Sigal | Mar 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

The recent news that prosecutors refused to file charges for attempted extortion against Mel Gibson's ex-girlfriend has caused quite a stir. Despite requests from investigators and the victim, prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against her and her attorneys.

In this blog entry, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Vitaly B. Sigal will summarize what the crime of extortion consists of and explain what to do if you or someone you know is being charged with extortion or attempted extortion.


Extortion is defined by the California Penal Code in Section 518 as the obtaining of property from another with his or her consent, by the wrongful use of either force or fear, or under color of official right.

As a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, I have run across many extortion cases and have learned a great deal through my experience. I have utilized this experience to formulate several winning strategies of defense for clients who are facing extortion charges.

Here are some of the elements of extortion explained. Please note that by no means is this a complete explanation and if you would like to learn more about this crime or are facing extortion charges, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney who can properly advise you.


This can be either the property itself or the right to it. It need not be property that someone has a legal interest to. For instance if you approach a thief and threaten him in some manner to hand over the stolen goods, the crime of extortion is complete even though the thief did not have the legal right to have the stolen item in the first place.

Physical property however does not need to be transferred. Below are some other property rights that can be transferred to constitute extortion:

  • The right to prosecute a lawsuit or an appeal
  • Obtaining an official act of a public officer can be the basis of extortion
  • If a person makes an extortionate demand in writing he may guilty even if the victim parts with no property
  • Any person who, by use of improper threat, gets another person's signature on any document giving a property right may be charged with extortion even if the property right is never actually obtained
  • Demanding that a person disclose their PIN or ATM card constitutes obtaining property for purposes of extortion
  • These are just a few common examples of what may constitute the crime of extortion. By no means is it a complete list and ever case is unique. If you or someone you know is charged with the crime of extortion, your first call should be to an experience criminal defense attorney.


The threat that is made must be the cause which makes a person give up some right. If some other cause was the reason for inducing the action then there is no extortion crime. The threat need not be an explicit one, it could be a veiled or subtle threat.

The following may be the type of threat that is considered an extortion crime:

  • Threatening to injure a person
  • Threatening to damage property
  • Threatening to accuse a person or his family of a crime,
  • Threatening to expose or disgrace a person in some way
  • Threatening to expose a secret

Again this is not a complete list but merely a summary. For a comprehensive consultation on your extortion or other criminal case, contact an experienced criminal attorney today.


The crime of extortion maybe charged as either extortion itself or attempted extortion. If it filed as extortion, then it is a felony and may punishable by imprisonment for two, three, or four years. years.

Attempted extortion can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor and is considered a wobbler crime. If it is charged as a felony, then it is punishable by 16 months, two or three years in prison.

If attempted extortion is charged as a misdemeanor then it may be punishable by up to one year in county jail in addition to a fine.

These are the punishments that are spelled out in the California Penal Code. Often times a person can get a much more lenient sentence or even beat the case at trial if he retains the services of a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. If you or someone you love is charged with extortion or any other crime, call SIGAL LAW GROUP today for a free no obligation consultation on your criminal matter. Call toll free at 818 325-0570

About the Author

Vitaly Sigal

Vitaly Sigal Sigal Law Group Owner 355 S. Grand Ave, Suite 2450 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 620-0212 Vitaly Sigal has extensive trial experience and is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From straightforward to complex litigation, Mr. Sigal handles every case with the same i...


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