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Blackmail Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 23, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Blackmail can be defined as a situation where an individual obtains certain information about a victim and demands for compensation in order not to inform third parties of his or her findings. The payment may be in terms of monetary value or any other type of valuable asset that the blackmailer demands. Blackmail is considered a criminal offense, and depending on the details of the case, it is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Blackmail Laws

Federal blackmail laws were put in place to protect individuals from undue manipulation from third parties through their personal information. It mainly targets federal officeholders, but an individual must not hold such an office for their blackmail case to be prosecuted at the national level.

Unfortunately, very few blackmail cases face prosecution. In most cases, the victims of blackmail fail to come forward and press charges for fear that the information in question might go public, therefore damaging their reputation. The information must be made public before the prosecution takes place.

Blackmail Crimes and Charges

As earlier mentioned, federal blackmail laws don’t necessarily require that the victim be a member of the federal or state government. There are several scenarios which can be pursued as a blackmail charge. They include the following;

Federal blackmail charges may be brought up in situations where the perpetrator wishes to influence the administrative operations and outcomes of an individual in office by possessing certain information about them that they wouldn’t want to disclose to the public.

• A federal blackmail charge may also emerge in cases where an individual uses any form of communication such as mail, the internet or a telephone to communicate a blackmail treat or ask for compensation to withhold certain information regarding the victim.

In most cases, the victims of blackmail are considered to be participating in the crime by concealing the information and giving in to the perpetrator’s demands. Fortunately, the victims are excused of the charges as it is considered that they did it under pressure. They may however, face legal repercussions if they misused their position or public funds to pay the blackmailer.

Punishment for Blackmail

The federal statutes consider blackmail as a federal crime that is punishable through substantial fines and up to a year in prison, depending on the details of the case. Although the blackmail crime carries a relatively low prison sentence, it is essential to keep in mind that it can be associated with several other charges, such as federal extorsion. When these crimes are summed up, they can get a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Blackmail Sentencing Guidelines

The primary forms of sentencing for blackmail charges are imprisonment and fines. However, additional charges such as racketeering and extortion can compound the case. In order to
give the verdict, the judge must consider whether the matter in question led to organized criminal activity or not. The guilty individual might face probation or be required to pay restitution to the victim in addition to their prison sentence or fines.

The Statute of Limitations

Like in most other federal cases, the statute of limitations applies to blackmail cases. It states that no perpetrator can be tried, prosecuted, or punished for a blackmail offense, five years after its occurrence. Enough evidence regarding the case must be presented to the court before that time elapses. However, the blackmail charge may be prosecuted after this period if it included other federal crimes or capital offenses such as kidnapping, murder, or espionage.

Blackmail Cases

Aside from persons in the federal or state government, celebrities are some of the most frequent victims of blackmail plots. In most cases, the crimes are perpetrated by some of their close contacts, such as professional service providers and studio interns. However, since such individuals are very popular, most of them choose to pay off the perpetrator rather than face negative attention due to the situation.

State Blackmail Laws

Most states don’t have specific statutes for blackmail. In states where it is present, it is usually classified under extorsion, whose circumstances are very similar to those of blackmail. However, most states classify blackmail as theft, whose punishment is determined by the value of the goods or amount in question. The punishment for the blackmail case in such states is therefore determined by the amount of money or value of products or services that were acquired by the blackmailer from the victim.

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