In addition to the expected worry of identity theft and financial loss, there's also concern regarding extortion schemes whenever there's a high-profile data breach. Hoping to take advantage of the situation, a swindler may send emails to frighten victims into paying a ransom. In New Jersey, any person who engages in this or similar behavior can be charged with theft by extortion.
Criminal Coercion in New Jersey
Criminal coercion is similar to extortion. Both involve using threats as a means to achieving a certain purpose. However, the purpose or goal is what distinguishes the offenses. The purpose of coercion is to manipulate or control another person's actions; the purpose of extortion is to gain money, property, or services. The distinction in the crimes is significant: coercion is generally charged as a crime in the fourth degree punishable by up to 18 months in prison whereas extortion is always classified as a crime in the second degree punishable by incarceration of up to 10 years. Although extortion and coercion are different offenses, it's possible to be charged with both crimes together.
New Jersey Extortion Laws at a Glance
The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to New Jersey's extortion laws, including links to important code sections.
- New Jersey Statutes 2C: 20-5 (Theft by Extortion)
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:13-5 (Criminal Coercion)
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-2, 2C:43-3 (Penalties)
Elements of the Crime
- Inflicts bodily injury or physically restrain anyone
- Accuse anyone of an offense
- Expose/ publicize any secret or distribute information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or to impair someone's credit or business
- Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action
- Bring about or continue a strike, boycott, or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act
- Testify or provide information or withhold information regarding another's legal claim or defense
- Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another
- Duress or necessity
- Affirmative defense: For some instances of extortion, if the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.
- Unlawful Taking of Means of Conveyance: New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-10
- Theft by Deception: New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-4
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
New Jersey Extortion Laws: Related Resources
Discuss Your Extortion Case with a New Jersey Attorney
Because extortion is always charged as a second degree crime, it's wise to meet with a skilled attorney who can make a zealous effort to arrive at a satisfying outcome of your case. Get in contact with a criminal defense attorney near you today to get started.