New York Blackmail and Extortion comes in different “flavors” and “sizes”. These cases are often as unique as the circumstances, victims and perpetrators. Often, when there is an extortion, threat of embarrassment, demand for money or mere harassment, a victim is hesitant to go to the police even when the law is clearly on his or her side. Similarly, there are situations where the harassment, emails, calls, threats, demands, stalking or other conduct may actually skirt violating the New York Penal Law. Call the police anyway? Risk your business, name or family relationships? Are there other options that can potentially put an end to this misery? Simply, when does a victimizer’s actions violate the New York Penal Law and what if anything should, or can, you do?
This blog entry will not serve as a substitute for an in depth analysis of your particular case. In fact, it in no way will address your case but instead identify potential issues and how you can take control of a situation that may derail your life if you let it fester and grow.
First, if your former lover, spouse, partner, business associate or mere acquaintance is not demanding property from you, then he or she may not be actually committing Blackmail or Extortion. Without going into great detail as the crime of Extortion (there is no crime called “Blackmail”), New York Penal Law 155.05(2) requires a person (the defendant or target) to compel or attempt to compel you to give him or her some type of property. Assuming that there is a demand and you comply, then the value of the property turned over through this coercion dictates the severity of the crime, a Grand Larceny. No matter the felony, the “stick” you possess in these cases involves the real potential that the extorter could be not only arrested for a felony, but sentenced to incarceration for up to four, seven, fifteen or even twenty-five years. Even if such a sentence does not happen, I am confident that there are few people who would enjoy spending a day, month or year on Rikers Island or a local jail. Its worth noting that even if you do not comply, once this demand is made and there is a sufficient attempt, a crime is still committed even if it is slightly lesser than the completed one.
What about the scenario where it is not money or property that is demanded? Does that mean you have no recourse to stop the harasser? Again, the answer depends on the circumstances and actions of your harasser. For example, it may be that the repeated calls, emails or texts violate New York Penal Law 240.30, Second Degree Aggravated Harassment. It could be that when your former girlfriend, boyfriend, admirer, or business partner has engaged in a course of conduct by showing up your home or place of business making threats of violence through various means of face to face, computer or telephonic threats. In such cases, he or she may have committed either a misdemeanor or felony Stalking. Sometimes a savvy victimizer may have hacked into your computer, accessed and stolen data or materials that either caused you a disadvantage in your business, a financial loss or the loss of a trademarked or proprietary program. In these situations, while the offense committed may not be any of those listed above – Extortion, Stalking Aggravated Harassment – there could be a violation found in Article 156 of the New York Penal Law. This section identifies the various New York Computer Crimes.
Because answers to your legal troubles cannot be addressed in a blog entry, or any website for that matter, you should do your best to have a solid grasp on the law and how you can use it to your legal advantage as either a sword or a shield. Do you hire your own legal counsel for a cease and desist? Work with your lawyer and an investigator to make “controlled calls” or wear a wire so secure evidence? Can an experienced attorney examine your emails or texts to determine whether your former business, social, sexual or other partner used the right words to trigger criminal action or help you craft a response? When all is said and done, do you want to conduct an investigation on your own, catch the person in a “sting” or turn the tables to your advantage to resolve the case civilly in the courtroom, outside the courtroom or even in a manner where you the provide an easily prosecutable case directly to Federal, State or local law enforcement? You can always make that decision at a later date, but there is tremendous value in ensuring evidence was collected and investigated properly so that it can be brought directly to prosecutors to limit embarrassment, media attention, a lengthy investigation or other issues. Again, you can always make the determination whether to go the law enforcement or non-criminal route when that time comes.
Whatever path you take, make sure it is the correct one. In crimes involving Blackmail, Extortion, Stalking, Aggravated Harassment and related offenses, you often only get one chance. If something is exposed – a secret, an affair, a business venture, proprietary information – the news, media, your family, and personal and business relationships can be obliterated. If you are concerned of something being exposed online, you could be “scrubbing” the internet for years.
Should you be unsure of how to proceed as a victim in an Aggravated Harassment, Stalking, Extortion or Blackmail case, investigate your options. Fortunately for those clients who came to Saland Law PC for assistance, these men and women utilized our experience as prosecutors and our relationship with investigators who served as detectives in the NYPD to build criminal cases that our clients could then use to provide directly to prosecutors or for their legal benefit outside the criminal justice system.
To learn more about the above crimes, as either a victim or an accused, review the information available on the Saland Law PC websites and blogs linked above and below.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients both as defendants and victims of Extortion, Stalking and Aggravated Harassment. Our New York Extortion attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors have also defended against and secured orders of protection in Family Court in the context of these and similar offenses. Saland Law PC serves clients throughout the New York City area.