Federal Law on Blackmail

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What is federal law on blackmail?

If you threaten to expose someone’s federal crime unless they give you something to keep quiet, you are guilty of federal blackmail. So, if you catch your coworker committing insider trading, and then ask for $50,000 to “turn the other eye,” you are guilty of blackmail.

“Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing,” is guilty of blackmail. 18 USC 873

But the government does not have to prove that you actually followed through with the threats. Just knowingly communicating the threat is enough.

However, the federal law does not cover situations where a person threatens to expose embarrassing information about you. The threat has to be about a federal crime.

How is Federal Blackmail punished?

Blackmail or extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 873 is a federal offense that carries up to one year one year in federal prison, a fine, or both.

How could this charge impact my life?

In addition to criminal penalties, a federal blackmail conviction can also impact other parts of your life.  But many of these may be of primary importance in the lives of some defendants.  Depending upon the nature of the conviction, these consequences could include detrimental impacts to a person’s:

  • Immigration status
  • Security Clearances
  • Professional Licenses
  • Firearm Ownership
  • Public Housing Eligibility
  • Driving Privileges
  • Eligibility for Federal Benefits

Do I need an attorney?

Yes. A federal conviction can result not only in incarceration, but could also have significant consequences for other facets of your life. If you are convicted of it, the charge will remain on your record and will show up on background checks.

It is extremely important to have an experienced federal attorney look at the facts of your case to determine if the prosecution can prove its case and what defenses you have.