In general, extortion is the act of obtaining money or other property through some kind of force or threat. Threats may come in the form of violence, damage to property or reputation or even an adverse government act. In most cases, extortion falls into the larceny category of criminal acts rather than robbery. That's because the person initiating the extortion is usually not threatening immediate physical harm like a masked perpetrator with a gun would be.
In Washington, as in other states, extortion is a felony. One of the most common forms of extortion is blackmail, which usually involves the perpetrator threatening to make public information that might be embarrassing or otherwise damaging to another individual. Another common form of extortion is the "protection" scheme. In these scenarios, the perpetrator offers to "protect" small business owners from burglars and vandals that could potentially threaten the business after hours.
In most cases, extortion can only exist if there is a threat to an individual or to an individual's property. It could also include threats to targets' friends, family or other loved ones. Verbal threats are sufficient for the act to be illegal. The threat of harm does not necessarily have to be physical. Threats might include doing harm to a person's business, professional career or any other aspect of the target's life that might cause damage.
While the word "extortion" might bring to mind mobsters shaking down the corner florist for "protection" money or maybe a disgruntled ex-employee trying to blackmail a politician, technology has created new ways for people to commit this criminal act. Through cyber extortion, hackers can use "ransomware" to hold a corporation's files, documents and servers for ransom. The individuals that initiate these cyber attacks usually target large corporations that have large amounts of data stored on their servers and also have the funds to pay the ransom.
If you are facing an extortion charge, keep in mind that you still have rights. By building a proper defense, you might be able to fight back against the charges and avoid a conviction.