Coercion and Extortion in New York City
Charges of coercion and extortion allege that a defendant used the threat of force or property damage to compel another to do something that they would not otherwise have done.
People who are facing these serious allegations need to take steps to protect themselves. A conviction for minor crimes under these statutes can result in a criminal record and jail time. Additionally, felony charges carry mandatory prison sentences.
Hiring a lawyer from the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman to provide a powerful defense against allegations of coercion or extortion in New York City could protect your rights and freedoms. Our skilled white collar criminal defense attorneys can present arguments in court that aim to mitigate any potential consequences while combating the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case.
What are the Differences Between Coercion and Extortion?
In the experience of top New York City white collar criminal lawyers, one of the most commonly charged and confused white collar crimes tried by New York City prosecutors are the offenses of Coercion and Extortion. Defined respectively under Sections 155.05(2)(e) and 135.60 of the New York Penal Law, the offenses of Extortion and Coercion are unique in that they criminalize violent or confrontational speech when employed for a particular purpose. What differentiates these two offenses, however, is that purpose.
For Coercion, that purpose is to, in the most general sense, control or manipulate another’s actions. For Extortion, that purpose of the speech is to acquire property or otherwise materially benefit at another’s expense. A thin distinction but a meaningful one: Coercion is typically charged as a misdemeanor in white collar cases whereas Extortion is charged, at minimum, as an E felony in New York.
Identifying the fine line between the New York City crimes of Coercion and Extortion may be difficult but it is necessary if you hope to avoid criminal liability for either of these two offenses. A brief overview of the law and a consultation with a top New York City attorney may just help you avoid the career ending consequences of a conviction for Coercion or Extortion.
The Crime of Coercion in New York City
Coercion, or as a verb “to coerce,” is the act of creating “compulsion by physical force or threat of physical force.” Black’s Law Dictionary 106 (7th ed. 2001). Its harm has been characterized by the United States Supreme Court as the “interference” of civil liberties and rights of another that occur when they are forced – through the use of threats or intimidation – to commit an act or not commit an act which they have “a legal right to do or to abstain from doing.” Sekhar v. U.S., 133 S.Ct. 2720, 2725 (2013). Although this may have historically been the scope of the offense, in modern day New York City the unlawful threatening of another to perform an otherwise lawful act is only one form of the crime of Coercion as defined by the New York Penal Law – the misdemeanor offense of Coercion in the Second Degree. The other is the use of threats to compel another to perform acts they have no legal right to do, such as a) commit or attempt to commit a felony; b) cause or attempt to cause harm to another’s person or property or c) violate his or her duty as a police officer or public servant. For this conduct, New York City prosecutors may charge the D Felony crime of Coercion in the First Degree and seek substantially more severe penalties. New York Penal Law § 135.65 (2).
Conviction for a First-Degree Coercion charge carries a minimum sentence of incarceration of a year in jail and while non-incarceration alternatives are available, they are likely to be withheld if prosecutors can characterize your actions or purpose as violent in any way. This is not to diminish the adverse effects of being convicted on the lesser charge of Second Degree Coercion: a conviction for this offense, though a misdemeanor, may serve as the factual basis for civil liability, as well as potentially affect any employment and/or professional licenses you may possess whether within or outside the state.
What Does it Mean to Extort Another Person Under State Law?
Extortion is one example of a theft offense under State penal law. According to New York Penal Law §155.05(2)(e), extortion occurs when a person compels or threatens another to deliver money or property under the threat of physical violence, property damage, or public humiliation. For example, a person may face charges of extortion if they demand $5,000 to keep an extramarital affair a secret.
The severity of an extortion charge varies based on the means that a defendant uses to force someone into giving up their property. The basic offense is a class E felony. However, if the alleged extortion uses the threat of violence or property damage, the charges upgrade to a Class C felony.
Retain Our New York City Attorneys for Help with Coercion and Extortion Allegations
Our experienced New York City coercion and extortion lawyers can begin preparing a defense to the charges that is both persuasive and appropriate under the circumstances of your case or work with prosecutors to settle the charges with minimal adverse consequences on your employment and livelihood. But the chances of either diminish the longer you wait before retaining an attorney after arrest. Contact our firm and begin the process of taking back control of your life in the aftermath of your arrest.