Extortion is a serious felony in Wisconsin.  Contact our criminal defense law firm at (414) 270-0202 for help.

Extortion in Wisconsin breaks down into two separate offenses: threatening to accuse someone of a crime, or threatening to injure another.  These offenses must be committed with the intent to either extort money or force the victim to commit an act against his or her will.  And finally, both of these offenses are Class H felonies, meaning they carry a maximum penalty of 6 years prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.  These are obviously significant penalties that require the attention of a top criminal defense attorney.

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., you’ll meet a few of Wisconsin’s top criminal defense attorneys.  All of our criminal defense attorneys are specialists who dedicate 100% of their careers to fighting criminal cases.  We don’t handle civil law because that doesn’t help an individual in your shoes.

Finally, we offer free consultations to potential clients.  Give us a call at (414) 270-0202 and let’s start talking about your case.

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Section 943.30(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes – Threats to injure or accuse of a crime

Section 943.30(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes describes a crime called threats to injure or accuse of a crime.  We (along with the drafters of the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions) refer to this crime as extortion.  But the statute itself indicates:

(1)  Whoever, either verbally or by any written or printed communication, maliciously threatens to accuse or accuses another of any crime or offense, or threatens or commits any injury to the person, property, business, profession, calling or trade, or the profits and income of any business, profession, calling or trade of another, with intent thereby to extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatever, or with intent to compel the person so threatened to do any act against the person’s will or omit to do any lawful act, is guilty of a Class H felony.

Some laws in Wisconsin are a bit wordy, and this one is no exception.  But by closely examining the statute, it becomes clear that the crime called “threats to injure or accuse of a crime” is more traditionally understood as extortion.  Extortion is a crime committed by an individual who tries to obtain the property of another (especially money) by threatening something.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1473A – Extortion: accuse or threaten to accuse

The Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions list two versions of extortion.  As we’ve described in other pages, the purpose of these jury instructions is to break offenses down into smaller parts that are easier for juries to understand.  These “parts” are called elements, and the government must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt before the court can find the defendant guilty.  The elements of extortion, accuse or threaten to accuse are:

  • Firstly, the defendant verbally, or by written or printed communication, accused or threatened to accuse another of a crime or offense.  The person threatened need not be the one from whom the money/act/failure to act is being sought.
  • Secondly, the defendant made the accusation or threat maliciously.  Maliciously does not require the person accusing or threatening to accuse must have a feeling of ill will towards the person accused or threatened.  Maliciously refers to a willful threat made with an illegal intent.
  • Thirdly, the defendant acted with intent to extort money or compel a person to do any act against his will.

This version of extortion focuses on threatening to accuse another of a crime unless they do something or pay an amount of money.  Importantly, you’ll notice that it does not matter whether the victim committed the crime or not.  Instead, the law focuses on the defendant using that fact to cause harm to the victim.

And finally, this does not mean prosecutors will automatically excuse the defendant of criminal liability for the underlying offense.  It’s certainly possible that the victim could face charges for the original offense.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1473B – Extortion: injure or threaten to injure

This is the version of extortion more people are familiar with.  Movies and television usually write about extortive situations involving money or other property.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1473B provides the elements of this offense:

  • Firstly, the defendant injured or threatened to injury the person, property, or business of another.  A “threat” is an expression of intention to do harm and may be communicated orally, in writing, or by conduct.  This element requires a true threat.  A “true threat” means that a reasonable person making the threat would foresee that a reasonable person would interpret the threat as a serious expression of intent do to harm.  It is not necessary that the person making the threat has the ability to carry it out.
  • Secondly, the defendant acted with intent to extort money or compel a person to do any act against the person’s will, or to compel them to not do any lawful act.  “To extort” means to obtain from another be coercion or intimidation.

While the first version of extortion focused on reporting a crime, this focuses on injuring or threaten to injure.  The purpose is the same: to acquire money or some other property of value.

A man extorts another with threat of force
Extortion is a Class H felony in Wisconsin. Contact our criminal defense attorneys at (414) 270-0202 if you’re charged with any kind of crime.

How to win a threats to injure or accuse of a crime case

All criminal cases are different, and therefore all cases require different strategies.  Sometimes defendants are looking to fight a case through trial.  In others, they’re looking to simply resolve the case for the best plea deal possible.

But no matter your goal, one of the first places our criminal defense attorneys will begin is to review your case for pre-trial motions.  Motions are important tools that attorneys use.  They’re a request for the court to decide an issue one way or another.  For example, sometimes criminal defense lawyers challenge the admissibility of a defendant’s statement.  If police violated the law obtaining this statement, the court could decide to prohibit the government from using it against you.  And if your statement is one of the only pieces of evidence against you, obviously this can be incredibly powerful, sometimes resulting in the complete dismissal of charges against you.

Once we exhaust pre-trial motions, another important question usually appears: are we going to trial?  Or are we taking the plea deal?  Frequently proceeding to trial brings us all the way back to the jury instructions.  Is there a weak point for the government that we can attack?  Which element is it?  As the government must prove charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt, focusing on where they’re weakest can be a viable defense strategy.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. for criminal defense

If you’ve found your way to our website, it’s safe to say that you’re seeking representation for yourself or a loved one.  Hopefully reading this page has been helpful in your understanding of extortion charges.  The next step is one of the most important: hiring the right criminal defense lawyer for your charges.

At Van Severen Law Office, we’re confident that after speaking with one of our criminal defense lawyers, you’ll be comfortable proceeding with our firm.  That’s why we offer free initial consultations to potential clients.  At that consultation you’ll have the opportunity to sit down, review your case, and talk about any issues with one of our attorneys.  Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to begin moving forward.

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