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California Penal Code 518 relates to the crime of extortion as using force or threats to compel someone to give them their money, property, or to compel a public official to perform or neglect an official act. You might be more familiar with this crime as it is more commonly referred to as “blackmail.” Pc 518 is a felony crime and punishable by up to four years in a state prison.


PC 518 describes extortion as “obtaining property or other consideration from another person, with their consent, or obtaining an official act of a public office, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”

            Based on this definition, there is a wide array of activity which this law covers. This makes it possible for someone to commit this crime without ever intending to do so.


The prosecution agency must be able to prove several factors in order to convict you of this crime. They must prove the defendant:

  • Threatened to injure the victim, another person, property, or;
  • Threatened to accuse another person of a crime, or;
  • Threatened to disclose a secret about the victim, or a member of their family, unless they receive money or property;
  • Had intent to force the victim into giving them money or property when they made threats to use force or fear, or perform an official act;
  • Due to the threats, the victim gave consent to give them money or property, or perform on official act;
  • Due to the threats, the victim actually gave defendant money or property.

Please note that a defendant can still be convicted of extortion even when there are no injuries or actual force used – threats alone are sufficient for conviction. Also, you may be charged with PC 524 Attempted Extortion if the victim does not actually give you money, property, or perform an official act.

“Secret,” Defined

For the context of PC 518, a “secret” is:

  • Any information that is unknown to the general public;
  • That could potentially harm the victim’s reputation to a degree;
  • Where victim is willing to provide money or property to prevent exposure to the information.

An “official act” is defined as something a government official would do in his or her official capacity.


PC 518 is a felony crime punishable by up to 4 years in a California state prison, a fine up to $10,000, and formal felony probation. Additionally, if the victim suffers from a mental or physical impairment, the prosecution may consider that an aggravated factor for sentencing. If the felony extortion involved gang activity, it is possible the conviction would count as a “strike” under California’s three strikes law. As always, being charged with a felony crime comes with other sanctions, such as the loss of the right to possess or own firearms.

Attempted Extortion Penalties

As noted above, a defendant can also be charged with attempted extortion. This is filed under PC 524, and is considered a “wobbler,” meaning that the defendant can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony.

            If convicted of a misdemeanor here, the penalties include up to 1 year in a county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and informal summary probation.

            If convicted of a felony here, the penalties include up to 3 years in a California state prison, a fine up to $10,000, and formal probation.


  • PC 7 – bribery
  • PC 211 – robbery
  • PC 422 – criminal threats
  • PC 459 – burglary
  • PC 487 – grand theft


If you, or someone you know, has been charged with PC 518, our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers can use a number of strategies to help defend the case, including:

  • No use of force or threats;
  • Lack of intent;
  • False allegation;
  • Insufficient evidence

Please contact our office if you, or someone you know, has been charged with this crime, and our attorneys will review the details of the case to determine to best route forward.

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