What is the difference between blackmail and extortion?
Extortion and blackmail are both very similar crimes, and each have the same penalties.
Extortion and blackmail crimes involve threats made against another person to do violence to them or their property. This can include threatening to reveal embarrassing, incriminating or socially damaging information about a person, for the purpose of extracting money or other property of value from the person.
The difference between the two is that extortion tends to be violent, while blackmail is more threatening and damaging to one’s reputation. Extortion or blackmail can occur through actions, such as body language, and they can also be an expressed or implied threat to someone.
To help give some context on what might be classed as blackmail and extortion, some examples include:
- Threatening to damage a home with firearms if the homeowner does not repay a drug debt.
- A Police Officer demanding money from a known criminal or else he will execute a search warrant on their house.
- Posting incriminating or embarrassing photos or facts about someone unless they pay you a large sum of money.
In order to be convicted of extortion and blackmail, the police and prosecutor must first prove:
- A demand was made;
- Without reasonable cause for the demand; and
- With the intent to gain a benefit for or cause a detriment to any person; or
- With a threat to cause a detriment to any person other than the demander.
What are the penalties for blackmail and extortion?
Extortion and blackmail are both very serious crimes. In Queensland, extortion and blackmail carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and this can increase to 14 years if the offence is deemed to have been aggravated (ie with a weapon).
Even if someone “unsuccessfully” blackmails or extorts someone else, they are still guilty of a crime – but in this case, it is attempted blackmail or extortion, therefore the penalties are slightly lighter.
What are the possible defences for blackmail and extortion?
If you are under investigation for extortion or blackmail, it is important to obtain an experienced legal counsel to present your best defences to the charges. Some of these defences could include but are not limited to:
- Had reasonable cause to make the demand – deny that you extorted or blackmailed anyone.
- Deny that your actions constituted making any threat and was not “detrimental or unpleasant”.
- Deny that there was any intention of gaining a benefit or causing another person loss.
- Claim duress and that you were forced to extort or blackmail someone.
More information on these offences
If you have been charged with an offence of blackmail or extortion, it is important to get professional legal advice as early as possible. Our experienced lawyers will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.