Am I a Victim of Coercion or Blackmail: What is the Difference Between the Crimes of Extortion and Coercion in New York State

The terms are somewhat interchangeable and, for that matter, if you are a crime victim it is relatively inconsequential how the New York Penal Law defines a particular offense. After all, your goal is clear. How do I prevent my tormentor from harassing and threatening me whether its online or offline? Although the questions are many – do I want to file a criminal complaint, petition for and get an Order of Protection in Family Court, hire a lawyer to shut down my blackmailer to keep it out of the public eye – as long your abuser committed some criminal act, you have avenues to protect yourself in or out of New York’s criminal justice system. While the links below addresses your remedies and the means by which you can stop a perpetrator of Revenge Porn, Sextortion, Cyber Harassment, Online and Offline Stalking, Extortion, Coercion and Blackmail, this blog entry is more limited in its scope. That is, what is the difference between Blackmail, Extortion and Coercion?

A solid place to begin your informational journey is as follows. Blackmail and Extortion are really the same crime. In fact, In New York State, Blackmail is the non-criminal attorney term for Extortion. Extortion, instead, is the crime codified in the New York Penal Law. In substance, what that law establishes is an “automatic” felony. Simply, anytime you intimidate another person to give you money or property, irrespective of its value, and you do so with the threat to expose a secret (true or not), falsely accuse him or her of a crime, or take any other action that serves you no benefit but is intended to cause your target hatred, contempt, ridicule, or material harm to their financial condition, personal relationships, safety, health and career, you violate New York Penal Law 155.05(2)(e). Yes, there are other possible actions that could be the basis of this crime such as the old-fashioned threat to break someone’s legs if they don’t cough up some cash, but the theme here is trying to procure money through duress. Assuming you do so, you violate New York Penal Law 155.30(6), a class “E” felony. This is the minimum or lowest level Blackmail crime in New York. Involve violence or the value of the property turned over is more than, $3,000, $50,000 or $1 million? Then you could be looking at a class “D”, “C” and “B” felony. Can you say, “Hello State Prison?”

Coercion for all intents and purposes is a lesser version of Extortion with a bit of a twist. Addressing the latter first, the twist referenced is that while an extorter or blackmailer in New York is demanding property and potentially money, a coercer is seeking that you engage in or refrain from certain conduct you otherwise would be free to pursue, or not, based on your own decision. The balance of the language is pretty much the same. So, instead of a person demanding $25,000.00 or he will make up a humiliating lie about you that will subject you to scorn, he demands that you have sex with him or he will do the same. Don’t get too confused, but sorta’ sounds like Sextortion, right? Coercion can come in varied shapes and forms, but another important fact is that this crime is potentially not a felony. Second Degree Coercion, New York Penal Law 135.60, is a class “A” misdemeanor while First Degree Coercion, New York Penal Law 135.65, is a class “D” felony. Either way, both will leave you with a criminal record if you are convicted and, no, the courts can never seal that conviction.

Ultimately, whether Extortion or Coercion, these crimes of victimization, especially in the time of Revenge Porn and the spread of explicit imagery online, are paralyzing to those targeted. Whatever the circumstance may be, know that you can protect yourself within the court system or outside the same in a legal compelling manner. For that matter, if you are accused of such conduct and crimes, you have rights and need not merely accept responsibility for a crime you did not commit. No matter what side of the law you find yourself, take the time to understand the law and implement the best strategy to move past your victimization or accusation.

Crotty Saland PC, a New York criminal firm established by two former Manhattan prosecutors, represents both victims and defendants in Extortion, Blackmail, Coercion, Sextortion, Revenge Porn, Stalking, and Harassment matters off and online throughout New York City, the Hudson Valley and the other counties in New York State.

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