The intersection of state and federal laws is always challenging to navigate, mainly when dealing with crimes that carry heavy penalties.


Blackmail and extortion are interconnected but distinct crimes addressed by federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 873 and various Arizona Revised Statutes.

❗Interestingly, the FBI reports that extortion cases have steadily risen, with a staggering 20% increase over the last five years. The complexities and intricacies of such cases often necessitate the expertise of a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney, such as those at Kolsrud Law Office.

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Understanding the Federal Crime of Blackmail and Extortion: 18 U.S.C. § 873

Blackmail and extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 873 are considered serious offenses under Arizona and federal law. The federal statute defines blackmail as the demand for money or anything of value in return for not revealing compromising or damaging information about an individual. On the other hand, extortion involves using threats or force to obtain something, usually money or property, from another person.


The key elements of blackmail under 18 U.S.C. § 873 include intent, a demand for money, property, or anything of value, and a threat to disclose information.


For extortion, the perpetrator must intentionally and unlawfully threaten or harm another person with the intent to gain something of value. It’s worth noting that the 'something of value' is not strictly confined to money or tangible goods; it could also be services or actions the victim wouldn’t ordinarily perform.

18 U.S.C. § 873

Key Differences Between Blackmail and Extortion: Interpretation of ARS and U.S. Code

While both blackmail and extortion are concerned with obtaining something of value through coercive means, there are subtle differences between the two.


Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-1804 states that blackmail ('theft by extortion') involves obtaining property or services through threats.


In contrast, under 18 U.S.C. § 873, federal law further differentiates between the two crimes by distinguishing the nature and type of threat involved.


For example, blackmail involves threats to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful, or damaging information, whereas extortion involves threats of physical harm, damage to property, or legal consequences.

The Role of Intent in Prosecuting Blackmail and Extortion Under 18 U.S.C. § 873

When prosecuting cases of blackmail and extortion under federal law, the element of intent plays a crucial role. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit the crime, demonstrating that they demanded or threatened to obtain something of value.


This requirement extends to the Arizona Revised Statutes as well. For instance, ARS § 13-1804 explicitly states that to commit theft by extortion, the defendant must act "knowingly." This means the prosecution must establish that the defendant knew their actions would unlawfully deprive another person of their property.


It's important to remember that intent is often subjective and requires substantial evidence. Using verbal or written communications, witnesses, surveillance, or digital footprints can all significantly demonstrate intent.


Potential Defenses to Federal Blackmail and Extortion Charges

As with any criminal charge, several defenses are available to those accused of blackmail and extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 873. A skilled federal criminal defense attorney from Kolsrud Law Office can craft a strategic defense to challenge the prosecution's case and potentially get charges reduced or dismissed.


One common defense is to challenge the element of intent. If it can be proven that there was a lack of intent to commit the crime, then the charge may not stand. For instance, the accused might have believed they had a legitimate claim to the property they allegedly tried to extort.


Another defense could be duress, meaning the accused was forced into committing the act under the threat of harm. Additionally, entrapment might apply if law enforcement induced the accused to commit the crime.

Consequences and Penalties of Violating 18 U.S.C. § 873: A Comparative Analysis of Arizona and Federal Laws

Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 873 carries severe penalties. If found guilty, an individual can face up to 1 year in prison under federal law.


The penalties are even more severe under Arizona law. As per ARS § 13-1804, theft by extortion is classified as a Class 2 felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 12.5 years for a first-time offender.


The severity of penalties underscores the importance of having a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney in your corner. At Kolsrud Law Office, we use our experience and expertise to mount a robust defense, aiming to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients.


What Are Related Federal Crimes?

The list below highlights several federal crimes closely related to extortion and blackmail, providing a broader understanding of the landscape of federal offenses.


  • 18 U.S.C. § 871: Law addressing threats made against the President of the United States and his/her successors
  • 18 U.S.C. § 872: Statute regarding extortion committed by officers or employees of the United States government
  • 18 U.S.C. § 873: Federal law explicitly addressing the crime of blackmail
  • 18 U.S.C. § 874: Statute concerning kickbacks received by public works employees
  • 18 U.S.C. § 875: Law addressing the subject of interstate communications, particularly criminal conduct through such means
  • 18 U.S.C. § 876: Statute about sending threatening communications through the mail system
  • 18 U.S.C. § 877: Law focused on mail-threatening communications sent from a foreign country
  • 18 U.S.C. § 878: Federal law addressing threats made against foreign officials, foreign guests, or internationally protected individuals
  • 18 U.S.C. § 879: Statute concerning threats made against former Presidents of the United States and specific other individuals
  • 18 U.S.C. § 880: Federal law on receiving proceeds from extortion activities.

The Importance of Experienced Legal Representation in Federal Cases

Facing charges of assaulting a federal officer is a serious matter, and the importance of having experienced legal representation cannot be overstated. The right attorney can distinguish between a favorable outcome and a severe sentence.


At Kolsrud Law Office, our seasoned federal defense attorneys bring their vast knowledge and experience to fight tirelessly for your rights and future.

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As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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