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Theft by Extortion

Theft by extortion is a serious criminal offense in Arizona. Under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1804, the crime involves many actions like the use of threats or fear intended to compel another person to part with their property, or the use of force or threats to make a public servant act or ignore their duties.

Possible penalties include probations, a possibility of jail time, and heavy fines. However, for you to face conviction, the prosecution team must prove the elements of the crime. Navigating the legal process alone might be challenging, so you want to engage your criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and help you achieve the best outcome.

At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our competent attorneys have handled countless extortion cases for many years. We could help you with your case if you face ARS 13-1804 charges in Phoenix, AZ.

The Legal Meaning of Theft by Extortion Under Arizona Laws

Under Arizona laws, extortion is a crime whereby persons with power seek favor using violent threats or force. As per the Arizona Revised Statute 13-1804, one commits extortion by seeking or obtaining services or property from someone by threatening to cause any of the following:

  • Damage the alleged victim’s property.
  • Cause physical injuries or kill someone using a dangerous weapon or instrument.
  • Bring or accuse the victim of criminal charges.
  • Expose another person’s deadly secrets, whether false or true.
  • Cause someone to part his/her property.
  • Withhold or take actions regarding the right to access an adjoining property.

Example. Imagine John sells controlled substances in his home. The only person aware of the business (apart from John's clients) is her neighbor James. One day amid a financial crisis, James approaches John with a demand; John must pay James to silence the illegal business, or James reports the matter to the police. John agrees and pays James $200.

According to the above encounter, James uses threats to create a reasonable fear of John if he fails to pay him. Thus, he intended to make John offer something of value, John consented and agreed to pay James. Therefore, James violates ARS 13-1804 of the Arizona laws.

Elements of The Crime

The crime of theft by extortion generally involves certain elements. Knowing how the elements work is essential. You and your criminal defense attorney may use the crime’s elements to demonstrate that the accused crime did not occur. An arrest for theft by extortion doesn’t necessarily mean you will directly face conviction for the crime. The prosecution team has to prove the elements beyond a shadow of a doubt. The series of elements the prosecutor will prove to include:

  • Use of Threats

The threat is among the main elements of extortion. The defendant making the threats should state the intention of committing harmful actions or injury against the alleged victim. For instance, in Arizona, one may engage in theft by extortion by threatening to cause physical harm, expose threats, or accusing the plaintiff of other disgraceful misconducts. The threat may either be written, verbal, non-verbal or through any different mode of communication. The prosecution team must prove that, after posing a threat, you used the created fear to obtain the victim’s money, property, consent, or let them perform in a way that favors you. Upon proving the use of threats then you may face conviction for the crime.

  • Creation of Fear

When you threaten the alleged victim, the created threat must pose fear to the alleged victim. The fear may be based on anything, including social stigma, economic loss, deportation, violence, or any other behavior which might cause the victim to hand over their property. Sometimes, it doesn’t require the defendant to have caused the fear, but their intent to cause fear may be considered.

Note, although the victim experiences fear, it doesn’t necessarily mean the defendant will be regarded as guilty for extortion. For example, the defendant might have posed fear when trying to obtain property. So, if the prosecutor proves you created fear to make the victim part with their property, you will face conviction for the crime.

  • Defendant’s Intent

You face conviction for extortion when you make threats with intentions of forcing another person to part with property, money, or something of value. But the court doesn’t base the intent on your statement alone but on nature and facts surrounding the threat. It means the prosecution team may prove that you intended to deprive the alleged victim’s property without showing what the defendant was thinking. After proving your intent to commit the crime, then you will face conviction for theft by extortion.

  • The Kind of Property

The kind of property the defendant tries to obtain through theft by extortion involves anything of value. Remember, the property doesn’t necessarily need to be actual physical property. Again, the defendant doesn’t necessarily need to have deprived the victim of their property. An attempt to carry out extortion is a crime under Arizona laws.

The courts consider property involved in theft by extortion like cash, liquor license, tangible goods, or even agreements not to compete in business. So if your case rotates around the listed properties, then you will face conviction for the crime in Phoenix. To challenge the prosecution team, you always need to work with a Phoenix Criminal Attorney.

Penalties for Theft by Extortion in Arizona

The penalties for extortion vary depending on the kind of threat alleged to have been made. Again, the court will also consider the circumstances surrounding the case. For example, you might have threatened to cause physical harm using a dangerous weapon or deadly instrument or cause serious physical harm or death. In the above case, the offense is classified as a second-class felony.

The law considers the other forms of theft by extortion as a class four felony. Remember, like in other crimes, if you have aggravating factors (like prior convictions), the court will increase the severity of the punishments. The court considers the level of threat posed to classify the crime in one of the following classes:

  • 2nd Class Felony

The group consists of theft by extortion committed using a deadly weapon or instrument like a gun. The penalties include Probation when it was a first-time offense and Minimum imprisonment of three years, and maximum jail for up to twelve and half years.

  • Class Four Felony

The group consists of extortion conducted over the phone without using a weapon. The penalties include serving under probation or Jail for a minimum of twelve months and a maximum of three years and nine months.

Extortion vs. Blackmail in Phoenix

In Arizona, theft by extortion is effectively blackmailing. Blackmail happens when you use threats to reveal harmful details or information about another person as a method of coercing them to complete certain activities or give up their property.

For example, you approach a politician then threaten you would expose their cheating, which would affect their public identity and marriages if they fail to offer you a certain amount of money. Blackmailing is mainly used as a threat to reveal damaging, shameful, and incriminating details about someone else unless they do what they are requested. Alternatively, theft by extortion involves threats made to cause physical injury and damage of physical property as a way of coercion.

The potential Defenses for Theft by Extortion in Arizona

Being arrested for theft by extortion doesn’t mean you will automatically face conviction. The prosecution team has the burden of proving you had intentions to commit extortion. It’s difficult to determine whether you caused reasonable fear. If the prosecution team fails to prove your case, then the court may dismiss it.

Again the court allows you to hire your defense attorney and fight the charges. With the help of your defense attorney, you only need to discuss the nature of your case, then he/she will help you build a strong defense to fight the charges. The common defenses for theft by extortion in Arizona include:

Factual innocence

Factual innocence is one of the potential defenses you may use to fight theft by extortion charge. If your conduct fails to meet the crime’s elements, then you are not guilty of the crime. For example, you should have posed a threat to the alleged victim for you to be guilty of the crime. However, if you did not threaten to harm or cause injury, then the elements of the crime are not met. So, the prosecutor must prove you posed a threat to the alleged victim. If they fail to do so, the court should drop your case. Remember, you should also support your argument before the court to show you didn’t pose a threat to the victim.

You Acted Out of Duress

If you committed theft by extortion because your life was in immediate danger, your actions might be excused. You may apply the defense when you feel you had no other option rather than committing the crime. The defense allows crimes committed under fear or threat of imminent bodily injury or death. Under Arizona crimes, duress justifies crimes engaged where you reasonably believe the act was the only way to escape societal injury. If the court considers you had no option rather than committing the crime, it might dismiss your charges. However, you should provide evidence before the court to support your argument.

Mistake of Fact

You may apply the defense of mistake where the reasonable mistake of fact led to extortion. The defense might be available, for instance, where you believe the property you attempted to obtain was yours. Therefore, the court should not charge you against your property. Instead, you only need to prove before the court the alleged property was yours. So, the court will consider your evidence and reduce or dismiss the charges.

Incapacity, Insanity, or Intoxication

When you committed theft by extortion while unconscious due to the influence of intoxication, the fact that you were intoxicated is a defense to your extortion charges. If you were not conscious while committing extortion, you could not be held criminally liable for your actions. However, the defense will not work if you were intoxicated voluntarily. Remember your criminal defense attorney should provide evidence to support you acted due to intoxication, insanity, or incapacity.

Insufficient Evidence

In any criminal case, the prosecutor must produce enough evidence for the defendant to face conviction. Therefore, if the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to support the theft by extortion, you can't face conviction. The prosecution should produce enough evidence you made a threat to damage another person, property, or the reputation of a victim. The victim believed the threat would harm him/her. It may be challenging to produce enough evidence since it seems difficult. Again, your defense attorney should challenge the credibility of the prosecutor's evidence. Therefore using insufficient evidence as your defense may lead to dismissal of your charges.

Lack of Threatening Harm

You may find that whatever the prosecution and the victim claim to be a threat, it is not. To face conviction for section, your actions must be threatening, and the victim should have been subjected to either violence or fear. If you have enough evidence that you did not threaten anyone, then you can avoid liability for extortion using this defense. You only need to work with your criminal defense attorney and prove your actions were not threatening.

The Action was Lawful

You and your criminal defense attorney may argue the action which made the alleged victim part with their money, property, or commit an official act was not unlawful. For instance, threatening to take to a law court would be a good example for posing threats but not considered theft by extortion. However, if the victim owed items of value or money and refused to repay, then you have the legal right to take action and take him/her to court. With proof that the alleged victims had your product of value and refused to repay as agreed, then the court may dismiss your charges.

Other Related Crimes to Theft by Extortion

Theft by extortion is charged alongside other related crimes in Arizona. The offenses charged alongside are:

  • Bribery – ARS 13-2602
  • Burglary, Second Degree Burglary – ARS 13-1507
  • Threatening and Intimidating – ARS 13-1202

ARS 13-1507, Second Degree Burglary

In Arizona, the crime is outlined under ARS-13-1507. You commit the crime when you unlawfully remain or enter a residential building to commit a felony or theft. The residential structure includes any building immovable or movable, temporary or permanent, as long as it is adapted for human lodging or residence.

For example, a residential building might include homes, apartments, or a motorhome. Violating the law is classified as a class three felony punishable with jail for either 8 or 9 years. Again you also pay a fine not exceeding $150,000. Remember, the penalties increase when your case has other aggravating factors, or you had previous criminal convictions.

Threatening or Intimidating – ARS 13-1202

In Arizona, you are guilty of threats and intimidation by word or your conduct:

  • Cause physical harm or force to another person or their property.
  • To cause injury to someone or seriously damage their property to promote or further in a criminal gang.
  • To recklessly cause serious public inconvenience.

The law doesn’t necessarily require the victim to feel threatened. The court under the crime will focus more on whether you posed genuine threats to the other person. The court will find a threat when your conduct or words threaten a reasonable person under a similar situation.

The state of Arizona considers the crime as a serious offense. Intimidations of threats associated with a criminal syndicate, promotion of a street gang, or racketeering business are considered third-class felonies. The court punishes the offender and will face jail time for at least seven years. Again in other situations where the offender threatened to hurt a person or their property, the crime is considered a first-class misdemeanor. The defendant will pay a fine not exceeding $2,500 and face jail time for six months.

Bribery, ARS 13-2602

The crime is outlined under Arizona statute ARS-13-2602. You commit the offense when you agree or offer some benefits to a public officer intending to influence their decisions. In Phoenix, violation of the law is considered a fourth-class felony. The class is punishable with a fine not exceeding $150,000 and for a period not exceeding 3years and 9months.

Find a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Theft by extortion is a severe crime that may have negative impacts on your future life. In addition, the penalties for the crime are severe. For instance, you may spend many years behind bars or pay heavy fines. Thus if you face extortion charges in Phoenix, AZ, you want to work with an experienced attorney to fight the charges.

The attorney will provide legal representation and ensure you build the strongest defense possible for a positive outcome. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our attorneys have handled extortion cases for many decades. Call us today at 602-551-8092 and speak with our competent defense attorneys for a free and confidential consultation.

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