TORONTO EXTORTION LAWYER
The offence of extortion occurs when one individual attempts to use threats or coercion to obtain anything from another individual. Extortion commonly occurs when one individual threatens to expose something about the other individual unless they are paid a sum of money.
In recent years the number of cases of extortion reported to police has increased exponentially across Canada. According to Statistics Canada there was a 170% increase in reported incidents of extortion between 2012 and 2018, with a 44% increase between 2017 and 2018 alone. These massive increases can be largely attributed to the increase in online extortion tactics such as ransomware attacks, “sextortion” and other cyber crimes.
The offence of Extortion is defined quite broadly and encompasses a wide array of conduct. Generally, extortion refers to one individual using threats or coercion to attempt to obtain anything from another individual. Section 346(1) of the Criminal Code states that “[e]very] 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.” This definition includes both successful extortions and unsuccessful attempts to extort.
An increasingly popular extortion tactic being used in Canada is ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks occur when an extortionist hacks into an individuals, companies or municipalities computer system and encrypts the data, refusing to release it until a ransom is paid. In addition to ransomware, sextortion has become a popular method of extortion in Canada. Sextortion occurs when an extortionist uses sexually explicit photos or videos they have in their possession to extort the individual in the photos. This type of extortion often occurs in intimate relationship situations where one partner threatens to release sexually explicit photos or videos of the other partner if they are not paid a sum of money. This type of extortion can also occur in the context of an extra-marital affair, where one individual threatens to expose the affair to the other individual’s spouse.
Frequently Asked Questions
What must the Crown Prove to Gain a Conviction?
What Counts as a Threat under s.346 of the Criminal Code?
What is a Reasonable Justification or Excuse?
What are the Penalties for being Convicted of Extortion?
How to Defend an Extortion allegation?
What Must the Crown Prove to Gain a Conviction?
As with any criminal offence, the Crown must prove all of the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. To gain a conviction in an extortion case the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused used threats, menace, violence or accusations to induce or attempt to induce the victim to do anything or cause anything to be done and that the accused had no legal excuse or justification for doing. In addition, the Crown must prove that the accused intended to obtain something from the victim or cause something to be done by the victim as a result of the threats, menace, violence or accusations. If the Crown cannot prove any one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the Court cannot find the defendant guilty of the offence of extortion.
What Counts as a Threat under s. 346 of the Criminal Code?
The Criminal Code states that extortion occurs when an individual uses or attempts to use threats to obtain something from another person or cause another person to do something. As stated above, the Crown must prove that a threat was actually made by the accused, and so it is important to understand what is considered a threat.
Section 346(2) of the Criminal Code states that the only threat that will not be considered a threat for the purposes of s. 346 is a threat to institute civil proceedings. Any other threat of any kind will be considered a threat under section. The threat being made is not required to be an unlawful one. For example, though not unlawful to send a letter to an individual’s employer exposing their “highly questionable ethical and moral conduct”, the Supreme Court ruled such actions would qualify as a threat for the purposes of s. 346. An individual that threatened to, or did send such a letter would be guilty of extortion.
What is a Reasonable Justification or Excuse?
According to s. 346(1) of the Criminal Code, an individual is guilty of the offence of extortion where, without reasonable justification or excuse, they use threats, menace, violence or accusations to obtain something from the victim or cause the victim to do something against their will. This means that if the accused is able to satisfy the Court that they had a reasonable justification or an excuse for committing the acts they committed, they are not guilty of the offence of extortion. The false belief that one had a reasonable justification or excuse will not satisfy the Court and will result in a finding of guilt.
What is considered a reasonable justification or excuse is fact specific and will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. To present this defence the accused must present evidence to the Court to bolster their claims, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
What are the Penalties for Being Convicted of Extortion?
According to s. 346(1.1) of the Criminal Code, extortion is an indictable offence. Those found guilty for the first time of the offence of extortion are liable to a maximum term of life imprisonment.
If a firearm is used in the commission of the extortion offence, the penalties will be more severe than if a firearm was not used. An individual who is found guilty of having used a restricted or prohibited firearm in the commission of an extortion or where any other firearm was used and the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization will be liable for a maximum term of life imprisonment and a minimum term of five years’ imprisonment for a first offence and seven years for a second or subsequent offence. An individual who is found guilty of using any other firearm in the commission of an extortion offence is liable for a maximum term of life imprisonment and a minimum term of four years’ imprisonment.
It should be noted that subsequent offences will only be considered if they were committed within ten years of the current extortion charge.
How to Defend an Extortion Allegation?
As with any criminal charge, the best defence will depend largely on the facts of the particular case. One of the most common defences used in extortion cases is that the accused had a reasonable justification or excuse for their actions. If this defence is utilized successfully, the accused will not be convicted of the offence of extortion even if the Crown can prove all elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.
When determining how to best defend your extortion allegations, it is important to contact qualified legal counsel from the outset of the case. Our Firm has experience dealing with serious extortion allegations and has obtained favourable results for our clients. We can help guide you through the process and formulate the best possible defence for your particular case.