Extortion Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Extortion, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Extortion?

n. Threatening a victim’s property or loved ones through intimidation or false claim in order to obtain money or property. This is a felony is most states. A direct threat to harm an individual is treated as the crime of robbery. Blackmail is a form of extortion when the threat to make embarrassing or damaging information public.

History and Meaning of Extortion

Extortion has been a serious criminal offense for centuries, with its origins dating back to ancient Rome. The basic definition of extortion - the act of taking someone's property or money through violence, threats, or intimidation - has remained the same throughout history. Extortion is considered a serious crime in most countries and is punishable by prison time and fines.

Examples of Extortion

Here are a few examples of extortion:

  • A local business owner is approached by a group of men who threaten to "take care of" his family unless he pays them $10,000.
  • A politician is caught in a compromising position and is threatened with public exposure unless he pays a large sum of money.
  • A landlord tells his tenant that he will evict her unless she gives him a portion of her paycheck every month.
  • An employee threatens to reveal sensitive company information unless his boss agrees to give him a raise.

Legal Terms Similar to Extortion

Here are a few legal terms that are similar to extortion:

  • Blackmail: Like extortion, blackmail involves threatening to reveal damaging information unless money is paid.
  • Robbery: Although similar to extortion, robbery involves taking property by force or threat of force from someone who is present.
  • Coercion: This refers to any action that forces someone to take a specific course of action through threats or intimidation.
  • Ransom: This involves demanding money or property in exchange for the release of someone who has been kidnapped or taken hostage.