FEDERAL LAWS REGARDING EXTORTION

A person commits the federal offense of extortion if he or she transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any demand or request for ransom or for a reward for the release of a kidnapped person, any threat to kidnap or injure another person, or any threat to injure the property or reputation of another person or to accuse another person of a crime with the intent to extort. The federal offense of extortion applies to both interstate and foreign telephone calls and other forms of communication. As long as the communication crosses state or national borders, the communication is considered to involve interstate or foreign commerce.

A person also commits the federal offense of extortion if he or she deposits any matter for mailing with the United States Postal Service or causes the mailing by the United States Postal Service of any matter, which matter contains a demand or a request for ransom or for a reward for the release of a kidnapped person, any threat to kidnap or injure another person, or any threat to injure the property or reputation of another person or to accuse another person of a crime with the intent to extort.

A person further commits the federal offense of extortion if he or she mails any matter in a foreign country for final delivery in the United States, which matter contains a demand or a request for ransom or for a reward for the release of a kidnapped person, any threat to kidnap or injure another person, or any threat to injure the property or reputation of another person or to accuse another person of a crime with the intent to extort.

The word “threat” for purposes of the federal offense of extortion is defined as an avowed present determination or intent to injure another person in the present or in the future. The word “threat” does not require an actual intention to carry out the threat. The threat may be communicated to the person to whom the threat is directed or it may be communicated to other persons. Whether a defendant is threatening another person when he or she utters certain words to another person is a question of fact that is to be determined by a jury.

A threat to injure the reputation of another person may be directed to a living person or to a deceased person. The fact that an allegation regarding the other person’s reputation may be true is not a defense to the federal offense of extortion.

The United States Postal Service is responsible for investigating the federal offense of extortion when the offense involves the mail. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is responsible for investigating the federal offense of extortion when the offense involves interstate or foreign commerce other than the mail.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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