|Scales of justice|
|Part of the common law series|
|Element (criminal law)|
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|Attempt · Conspiracy · Solicitation|
|Offence against the person|
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False imprisonment · Kidnapping
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|Crimes against property|
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Embezzlement · Extortion
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Infancy · Insanity
Justification · Mistake (of law)
Necessity · Loss of Control (Provocation)
|Other common law areas|
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Torts · Wills, trusts and estates
|Criminal justice · Law|
Extortion (also called shakedown, outwresting, and exaction) is a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the unlawful demanding and obtaining of something through force, but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.
In the United States, extortion may also be committed as a federal crime across a computer system, phone, by mail or in using any instrument of "interstate commerce". Extortion requires that the individual sent the message "willingly" and "knowingly" as elements of the crime. The message only has to be sent (but does not have to reach the intended recipient) to commit the crime of extortion.
Extortion is distinguished from robbery. In "strong arm" robbery, the offender takes goods from the victim with use of immediate force. In "robbery" goods are taken or an attempt is made to take the goods against the will of another—with or without force. A bank robbery or extortion of a bank can be committed by a letter handed by the criminal to the teller. (Comedian Artie Lange was accused and charged with extortion after he handed a bank teller a note claiming he had a weapon and would use it if the bank did not give him $10,000 in unmarked bills; Lange later explains it was simply a joke to flirt with the bank teller and was released shortly after incarceration). In extortion, the victim is threatened to hand over goods, or else damage to their reputation or other harm or violence against them may occur. Under federal law extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon. A key difference is that extortion always involves a written or verbal threat whereas robbery can occur without any verbal or written threat (refer to U.S.C. 875 and U.S.C. 876).
The term extortion is often used metaphorically to refer to usury or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences. For example, certain lawsuits, fees for services such as banking, automobile insurance, gasoline prices, and taxation have all been labeled "legalized extortion" by people with various social or political beliefs.
Neither extortion nor blackmail require a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to elicit actions, money, or property from the object of the extortion. Such threats include the filing of reports (true or not) of criminal behavior to the police, revelation of damaging facts (such as pictures of the object of the extortion in a compromising position), etc.
- Badger game: The victim or "mark"—often a married man—is tricked into a compromising position to make him vulnerable to blackmail.
- Clip joint: A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club or entertainment bar, typically one claiming to offer adult entertainment or bottle service, in which customers are tricked into paying money and receive poor goods or services, or none, in return.
- Coercion: the practice of compelling a person or manipulating them to behave in an involuntary way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation, trickery, or some other form of pressure or force. These are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way.
- Confidence trick: (also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, swindle or bamboozle) is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence.
- Cryptovirology: a software scam in which a public key cryptography system crafts fake keys which encrypt the user's data, but cannot decrypt them unless the user pays for the real key.
- Danegeld: The Danegeld ("Danish tax") was a tax raised to pay tribute to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged. It was called the geld or gafol in eleventh-century sources; the term Danegeld did not appear until the early twelfth century.
- Dognapping: The crime of taking a canine from its owner, which usually occurs in purebred dogs, the profit from which can run up to thousands of dollars.
- Loan sharking: A loan shark is a person or body that offers unsecured loans at high interest rates to individuals, often backed by blackmail or threats of violence.
- Nuclear blackmail: Nuclear blackmail is a form of nuclear strategy in which an aggressor uses the threat of use of nuclear weapons to force an adversary to perform some action or make some concessions. It is a type of extortion, related to brinkmanship.
- Prize: ransom offered instead of destroying a captured vessel, a form of extortion deemed acceptable under international law in the days of fighting sail.
- Price gouging: a pejorative term for a seller pricing much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. In precise, legal usage, it is the name of a felony that applies in some of the United States only during civil emergencies.
- Tallage: Tallage or talliage (from the French tailler, a part cut out of the whole) may have signified at first any tax, but became in England and France a land use or land tenure tax. Later in England it was further limited to assessments by the crown upon cities, boroughs, and royal domains. In effect, tallage was a land tax.
- Terrorism: most simply, policy intended to intimidate or cause terror. It is more commonly understood as an act which is intended to create fear (terror), is perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a materialistic goal or a lone attack), and deliberately targets (or disregards the safety of) non-combatants. Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence or unconventional warfare, but at present, the international community has been unable to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism.
- Tiger kidnapping: the taking of an innocent hostage to make a loved one or associate of the victim do something, e.g. a child is taken hostage to force the shopkeeper to open the safe; the term originates from the prior observation of the victim, like a tiger does with its prey. Ransoms are often used alongside these.
- Wheel clamping: widely used in England by private individuals and companies to extort money from motorists. This practice is illegal in Scotland.
- Legaltree, a Canadian legal portal, contains an article describing the elements of the offence of extortion under Canadian criminal law.