Enumerated Threats for the Offenses in New York City

New York’s laws on extortion and coercion are often referred to as “parallel crimes” by courts and experienced New York white-collar defense lawyers as they share some notable characteristics. Specifically, they both prohibit speech made for a certain purpose. Under the First Amendment, prohibitions of speech “must be sharply limited to words which, by their utterance alone, inflict injury or tend naturally to evoke immediate violence or other breach of the peace.” People v. Dietz, 75 N.Y.2d 47, 52 (1989). To comply with constitutional standards and avoid challenges for vagueness by top New York white-collar criminal defense lawyers, speech that can trigger criminal liability must be specifically enumerated or listed in the New York Penal Law. The specific speech that can trigger criminal liability for the New York crimes of Coercion and Extortion are found in Sections 135.60 and 155.05 (2)(e) respectively of the NYPL.

Using Extortion as an example, § 155.05 (2)(e) provides that a person who obtains property by extortion does so when he compels or induces another person to deliver 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:

  • Cause physical injury to some person in the future; or
  • Cause damage to property; or
  • Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
  • Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him; or
  • Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
  • 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
  • Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
  • 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
  • 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.

As a derivative offense, New York’s law of Coercion incorporates these same enumerated threats, but distinguishes itself from the more commonly prosecuted offense of Extortion in the purpose of their use – specifically, to control or compel conduct of another person.

Without a doubt, the distinction between the two crimes of Extortion and Coercion in New York can be, in many cases is, both illusive and confusing. The threats that bind them, however, are clear as day. Knowing what speech or acts can get you arrested for the related but distinct offenses of Coercion and/or Extortion in New York may save you from having to employ the services of top New York white-collar criminal defense lawyers to defend these equally serious criminal accusations.

Whether you are a local councilman, a union representative or otherwise influential white-collar professional, if the argument can be made that you received personal benefits undue to your position, the crimes of coercion or extortion may very well serve as the basis for your arrest. When that occurs hire only the best New York white-collar crime defense attorneys to defend your freedom and reputation from being lost due to a conviction for either of these offenses.

Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman today at (212) 581-1001 for the scheduling of a free and confidential consultation.

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