18 U.S.C. § 873 - Blackmail 

The federal crime of “blackmail” is commonly known as “extortion,” which occurs when someone makes threats to do something or discloses it that will somehow harm the victim of the threat.

The threat is made with the intent to obtain something of value, such as money, property, or another type of benefit.

Simply put, blackmail and extortion are described as the criminal conduct of demanding money from someone in exchange for not reporting something or keeping it secret, such as potentially embarrassing information about the person.

Federal Crime of Blackmail - 18 U.S.C. § 873

18 U.S.C. 873 defines a subset of blackmail or extortion as a federal crime. This federal statute imposes penalties for anyone who demands or receives money, or anything of value, made by threats of informing or consideration for not reporting that violates federal laws.

A related statute, 18 U.S.C. § 875 interstate communications, is a common blackmail or extortion threat offense that a federal prosecutor within the U.S. Department of Justice charges. 

This specific offense involves threats of economic or physical harm accomplished through wire transmissions, like email, text messages, or other interstate or foreign communications.

The threat, however, must be an actual threat, and the potential harm is typically economic but could include other forms of harm. For example, the threatened harm can be to the victim's reputation or information negatively affecting their business.

Notably, while local state laws, including California, prohibit a wide range of blackmail or extortion activity, the federal law under 18 U.S.C. 873 applies only to threats to expose or consideration for not saying something.

Federal prosecutors will only likely pursue blackmail or extortion charges against someone if the case involves substantial federal interest.

This would include a scenario where the offense crossed state lines or implicated federal law to the degree that a state-level prosecution is insufficient to serve federal law enforcement's interests. Let's review this federal law further below.

What are the Penalties for Blackmail or Extortion?

18 U.S.C. 873 blackmail or extortion is a federal crime carrying up to one year in federal prison, a fine, or both prison and a fine. 

However, the sentence will always vary depending on the details and factors listed under the United States Sentencing Guidelines and other factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

The federal sentencing judge has broad discretion in these cases. A first-time offender could receive a sentence that does not include prison time. Perhaps the judge will impose sentencing alternatives, such as:

  • community service,
  • drug treatment, or
  • home confinement.

The facts and circumstances of every blackmail or extortion case will be different, such as the defendant's criminal history and any mitigating factors related to their character and background.

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 41 has a list of federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 873, including the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 871 – threats against the president;
  • 18 U.S.C. 872 - extortion by United States employees;
  • 18 U.S.C. 874 - kickbacks from public works employees;
  • 18 U.S.C. 875 - interstate communications;
  • 18 U.S.C. 876 - mail threatening communications;
  • 18 U.S.C. 877 - threatening communications with a foreign country;
  • 18 U.S.C. 878 - extortion against foreign officials;
  • 18 U.S.C. 878 – threats against former presidents;
  • 18 U.S.C. 880 - receiving the proceeds of extortion.

The Hobbs Act prohibits extortion or robbery by use of force affecting interstate commerce. 18 U.S. Code 1512 defines tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.

What to Do if Charged with a White-Collar Crime?

These federal white-collar offenses, such as blackmail and extortion, are serious. They usually put the best prosecutors on them to get a conviction, recover money, and put the offender in federal prison for as long as possible.  The key is to get a federal criminal defense attorney who:

  • has experience defending these cases;
  • knows what it takes to get the best possible results; and
  • somebody who is going to fight for you.

I've been defending federal criminal white-collar cases for the past 30 years.  I've traveled all over the nation in defense of my clients.

Federal Extortion Defense Lawyer

We must figure out exactly how strong the government's case is against you because that will dictate how we defend it. 

It's going to dictate the moves we make, the investigation we make, and whether or not we will be able to get you out of custody while the case is pending because, in federal court, you can be detained without being able to get out. 

Especially in some of these white-collar cases, they're not going to let you use the money you allegedly stole to get out while the case is pending.

So, move number one is to figure out if we're going to fight the case or if we're going to try to resolve the case.  Next is to figure out if we can get you out of custody or keep you out of custody if you're already out of custody.

Then, we need to set our strategy on precisely what moves we're going to make to defend you properly and to get the best possible result.

That takes experience. That takes talking to the client.  We'll have you come in.  We'll sit down and discuss everything and decide what makes sense in defending you for this federal criminal case.  We will review the following:

  • how much money has allegedly been stolen?
  • can you pay any of the money back?
  • do you have a defense for the crime?
  • what other moves can we make to ensure that you end up with the best possible result?

So, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  Depending on where you are, I can sometimes meet with you over the phone. 

I'm always available to meet with somebody in person, and we'll start to talk about what it's going to take to get you the best result.  What moves can we make, and what can you do from your perspective to assist me in getting the result you must have?

If you know that you are under a federal criminal investigation, or already charged with 18 U.S.C. 873 blackmail or extortion, call our lawyers for a free consultation.

I look forward to hearing from you.  If you need the best, you've come to the right place.  Ron Hedding stands at the ready to help you.

The federal criminal defense lawyers at the Hedding Law Firm are located in Los Angeles, California. We serve people across the United States on federal criminal matters.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about Federal Criminal Defense issues in Los Angeles and Encino California. We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.