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TORONTO EXTORTION LAWYER

Extortion is the criminal offence of using threats or force to try and get someone to do something. Extortion can include a wide variety of conduct, varying from putting a gun to somebody’s head and forcing them to do something or, threatening to release information if someone does not do what you want. The Criminal Law Group has even handed situations where other lawyers are being extorted.

Section 346(1) of the Criminal Code sets out that every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Extortion?
What does the Crown need to prove for a Conviction of Extortion?
What does an attempt to obtain “Anything” mean?
What counts as a “Threat” under Section 346?
What is Reasonable Justification or Excuse?
What are some of the Penalties for a Conviction of Extortion?
What if a Firearm is used during the Commission of Extortion?
What are some Defences to Extortion?

What is Extortion?

Extortion is broad and covers a number of possible conducts. Section 346(1) includes successful acts to extort and also attempts to extort. The elements that make up the offence are:

  • A threat, accusation, menace or violence;
  • That induces or attempts to induce any person (does not have to be the person threatened, accused, menaced or to whom violence is shown);
  • To do anything or cause anything to be done;
  • The threat, accusation, menace or violence must have been made without reasonable justification or excuse;
  • The person must have made the threat, accusation, menace or violence with the intent of obtaining something.

What does the Crown need to prove for a Conviction of Extortion?

For the Crown to prove their case, they need to prove all elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. The Crown needs to prove that the accused person committed the guilty act. The Crown needs to show that the accused person made a threat or accusation, or used violence or menace. The Crown needs to show that conduct induced or attempted to induce any person to do anything or cause anything to be done.

The Crown must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person intended to obtain something as a result of his/her conduct and that he did so without reasonable excuse or justification.

What does an attempt to obtain “Anything” mean?

Section 346 of the Criminal Code criminalizes attempts by the accused to obtain “anything” by unreasonable threats. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that the word “anything” must be interpreted broadly: it should be given a wide, unrestricted application.

What counts as a “Threat” under Section 346?

One of the acts that may ground an extortion charge is a “threat” made by the accused. It is important that the Crown proves a threat was actually made.

Section 346(2) of the Criminal Code sets out that the extortion provisions apply to all threats, except a threat to institute civil proceedings. Threats to institute civil proceedings are not threats for the purposes of this section. They are the only kind of threat that is statutorily excluded from grounding an extortion charge.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said that a threat for the purposes of this section does not need to be a threat that is otherwise unlawful. For example, the Ontario Court of Appeal found an individual guilty of extortion for threatening to send a letter to someone’s employer alleging they were involved in “highly questionable ethical and moral conduct.” While sending such a letter would not be a criminal offence itself, the court still found the accused guilty of extortion.

The type of threat needed for the offence of extortion depends on the circumstances. Every case will turn on its own facts. However, threats of violence will never be justified. The only safe type of threat that can be made without extortion charges arising is a threat to institute civil proceedings.

What is Reasonable Justification or Excuse?

Section 346 of the Criminal Code sets out that for an act to constitute extortion it must be done without reasonable justification or excuse. Therefore, if the accused person is able to show he or she acted with reasonable justification or excuse, then there will be no conviction.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said that even if the accused thought he was entitled to the thing demanded, that is not a reasonable justification or excuse to make a threat that would otherwise be unlawful.

The phrase “reasonable justification or excuse” requires a fact-specific inquiry to determine if it has been made out in a particular case.

What are some of the Penalties for a Conviction of Extortion?

Penalties for a conviction of extortion will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offence, the characteristics of the offender and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Section 346(1.1) of the Criminal Code sets out that extortion is an indictable offence and a conviction of extortion can result in a penalty of up to life imprisonment.

What if a Firearm is used during the Commission of Extortion?

If a firearm is used during the commission of extortion, there are mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment, in addition to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

If a firearm is used during the commission of the offence and the offence is committed for the benefit or in association with a criminal organization there is a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years in the first case; and seven years for any subsequent offences.

If any other case where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, there is a minimum punishment for a term of four years.

What are some Defences to Extortion?

The availability of criminal defences will vary depending on the circumstances of the offence and the characteristics of the offender.

One defence provided by Section 346 of the Criminal Code is that the accused could try to argue the act was done with reasonable justification or excuse. Therefore, even if the elements of the guilty act are made out and the accused is found to have committed an act that could be extortion, he or she could avoid criminal liability if it is found the offence was done with a reasonable justification or excuse.

However, the circumstances of each case are different and it is important to canvas the relevant facts with a lawyer to determine what defence(s) could be available to you.

416-DEFENCE | 416-333-3623