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The term of extortion (often called a “shakedown” or “blackmail”) is the criminal offense of using coercion to obtain money or something of value from another person or business. The charge can be prosecuted in state or federal court including U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. If you are charged with extortion under Iowa law, then contact a knowledgeable Polk County defense lawyer.

Des Moines Extortion Lawyer

With offices located in Des Moines, Iowa, our attorneys represent clients charged with extortion and related offenses in the greater Des Moines area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County and Guthrie County, Iowa. Call (515) 279-9700 to discuss criminal accusations of extortion.

Information Center for Extortion in Iowa

Statutory Elements of Extortion

Under Iowa Code section 711.4, the criminal offense of extortion requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  1. The defendant threatened to commit an offense charged and supported by other evidence in the case;
  2. The defendant intended to communicate the threat towards another person who was threatened.
  3. The threat was made for the purpose of obtaining something of value for the defendant or another person.
  4. The defendant did not reasonably believe that he or she had a right to make threats in order to:
    • recover property;
    • be paid for property or services;
    • recover a debt to which he or she had a good faith claim.

The fourth element cannot be used if the threat is to commit a public offense. Under the standard jury instructions for extortion found at 1110.2, the defense to extortion concerning whether the defendant reasonably believed that he or she had a right to make threats depends on the facts and circumstances existing at the time of the threat. The jury is often instructed that: “If the defendant believes he or she had a right to make the threat and you find that a reasonable person under the circumstances would believe they had a right to make the threat, then the defendant would not be guilty of Extortion.”

Extortion Crimes in Federal Court

In federal court, extortion under color of official right is a violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). At common law, the crime of extortion was committed by a public official who took “by colour of his office” money that was not due to him for the performance of his official duties. A request or demand for some improper action by the public official was not an element of the offense. Extortion by the public official was similar to what we would now call “taking a bribe.”

The Hobbs Act is violated whenever a public official uses color of official right to obtain property to which he is not entitled and thereby affects interstate commerce. See United States v. French, 628 F.2d 1069, 1071 (8th Cir.1980). It usually requires an exchange of money for a specific exercise of the official’s power. The act can be violated by a variety types of conduct including bribery, taking an illegal gift and misconduct related to taking campaign contributions. Under federal law, the term “extortion” means “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(2).

The Hobbs Act provides:

Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires to do so, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a).

Related charges include taking bribes in violation of the federal program bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B), endeavoring to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a).

Providing a Strong Extortion Defense in Polk County

If you are charged with extortion or other felony criminal charges in Iowa, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. Extortion cases can be prosecuted in state or federal court including the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines division. We represent clients on serious criminal charges throughout the greater Des Moines-Newton-Pella area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County and Guthrie County, Iowa.