Extortion is somewhat akin to robbery. Both involve the illegal taking of another’s property. But there are important differences. Here is what you need to know about the crime of extortion in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, extortion is defined as obtaining property from another with consent, but that consent is induced by the wrongful use of force or fear, or under the color of an official right. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1481.
A person may be convicted of extortion or attempted extortion if all these elements are met:
- obtaining or attempting to obtain;
- property, or a signature to a writing to transfer property, or a signature to a writing to create a debt, demand or charge;
- of another;
- with consent; and
- induced by force or threat. OUJI-CR 5-32.
If any of these elements are missing, or are left unproven by the prosecutor, there can be no conviction for extortion.
It is property or signatures to certain documents that are meant to be protected by these statutes. The defendant must obtain property or signatures in order for the crime to have occurred. And the victim must have given consent under duress. Consent makes this a different crime from a robbery which does not involve any kind of consent.
It is also against the law to send any sort of extortionate letter to a proposed victim. If the letter even implies a threat, the defendant opens themselves up to a conviction. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1486.
Even if the victim would have freely transferred the property to the defendant without the use of any extortionate means, if the defendant uses extortionate means, the crime has been committed. Okla. Stat. tit .21 § 1485.
The level of fear imposed may be a threat to:
- unlawfully injure the person, property of the family of the person threatened;
- accuse the person or a member of that family of a crime;
- expose or involve that person in a matter of disgrace; or
- expose a secret which would affect the person or a member of that person’s family. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1482.
In most cases, extortion is a felony punishable by a prison term of up to 5 years. Attempted extortion is punishable by a jail term of up to 2 years. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1483.
However, extortion committed under color of official right, in which a person uses their public office to induce the transfer of property, may be guilty of a misdemeanor. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1484. The defendant must be a public officer to be convicted of misdemeanor extortion. This occurs when a person misuses their office, using their position to induce the extortion. In contrast, in felony extortion, a defendant must have used force or threats.
If convicted of felony extortion, you may face serious jail time. It is important to work with experienced criminal defense counsel to build a strong defense to protect your freedom.
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