Is It Extortion to Threaten to Reveal Tax Violations if a Prenuptial Agreement Isn't Changed?
Blackmail is the crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging information about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless money is paid to purchase silence. It is a form of extortion. Because the information is usually substantially true, it is not revealing the information that is criminal, but demanding money to withhold it. Blackmail has been defined in the broad sense to mean "compelling someone to act against their will or gaining or attempting to gain something of value." Courts vary on interpreting what "something of value" includes, but it is not necessarily a money payment in all cases. A criminal complaint is typically filed with the local police department or prosecutor's office.
A person obtains property by extortion when he compels or induces another person to deliver such property to himself or to a third person by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered, the actor or another will:
(i) Cause physical injury to some person in the future; or
(ii) Cause damage to property; or
(iii) Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
(iv) Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him; or
(v) Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
(vi) Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person's business; except that such a threat shall not be deemed extortion when the property is demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or
(vii) Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another's legal claim or defense; or
(viii) Use or abuse his position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely; or
(ix) Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Please see the following CA statutes:
518. Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his
consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer,
induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of
519. Fear, such as will constitute extortion, may be induced by a
1. To do an unlawful injury to the person or property of the
individual threatened or of a third person; or,
2. To accuse the individual threatened, or any relative of his, or
member of his family, of any crime; or,
3. To expose, or to impute to him or them any deformity, disgrace
or crime; or,
4. To expose any secret affecting him or them.
520. Every person who extorts any money or other property from
another, under circumstances not amounting to robbery or carjacking,
by means of force, or any threat, such as is mentioned in Section
519, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two,
three or four years.
521. Every person who commits any extortion under color of official
right, in cases for which a different punishment is not prescribed
in this Code, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
522. Every person who, by any extortionate means, obtains from
another his signature to any paper or instrument, whereby, if such
signature were freely given, any property would be transferred, or
any debt, demand, charge, or right of action created, is punishable
in the same manner as if the actual delivery of such debt, demand,
charge, or right of action were obtained.
523. Every person who, with intent to extort any money or other
property from another, sends or delivers to any person any letter or
other writing, whether subscribed or not, expressing or implying, or
adapted to imply, any threat such as is specified in Section 519, is
punishable in the same manner as if such money or property were
actually obtained by means of such threat.
524. Every person who attempts, by means of any threat, such as is
specified in Section 519 of this code, to extort money or other
property from another is punishable by imprisonment in the county
jail not longer than one year or in the state prison or by fine not
exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both such fine and
525. Upon conviction of a felony violation under this chapter, the
fact that the victim was an elder or dependent person, as defined in
Section 288, shall be considered a circumstance in aggravation when
imposing a term under subdivision (b) of Section 1170.
526. Any person, who, with intent to obtain from another person any
money, article of personal property or other thing of value,
delivers or causes to be delivered to the other person any paper,
document or written, typed or printed form purporting to be an order
or other process of a court, or designed or calculated by its
writing, typing or printing, or the arrangement thereof, to cause or
lead the other person to believe it to be an order or other process
of a court, when in fact such paper, document or written, typed or
printed form is not an order or process of a court, is guilty of a
misdemeanor, and each separate delivery of any paper, document or
written, typed or printed form shall constitute a separate offense.
527. Any person who shall sell or offer for sale, print, publish,
or distribute any paper, document or written, typed or printed form,
designed or calculated by its writing, typing or printing, or the
arrangement thereof, to cause or lead any person to believe it to be,
or that it will be used as an order or other process of a court when
in fact such paper, document or written, typed or printed form is
not to be used as the order or process of a court, is guilty of a
misdemeanor, and each separate publication, printing, distribution,
sale or offer to sell any such paper, document or written, typed or
printed form shall constitute a separate offense, and upon conviction
thereof in addition to any other sentence imposed the court may
order that all such papers or documents or written, typed or printed
forms in the possession or under the control of the person found
guilty of such misdemeanor shall be delivered to such court or the
clerk thereof for destruction.