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Charged with blackmail? Understand the elements for conviction

You may have made a mistake that demonstrates your intent to threaten someone online, and you feel lost as to how to defend your actions to the court.

Many people often throw the term "blackmail" around to describe an instance of an individual trying to get you to do something you do not necessarily want to do. Yet cases of blackmail prove complex, and if a court finds you guilty, they carry substantial punishments. Understanding the steps that a court must take to convict you may help you determine whether your charge will stand. Knowing all elements of the proof blackmail may even prevent you from committing similar acts in the future.

Conviction requires intention

Multiple elements of blackmail must hold true for conviction to take place. South Carolina defines blackmail as any person who by verbally, printing, writing, or electronic communications:

  • Accuses another of a crime or offense
  • Exposes or publishes anyone's personal or business acts, infirmities or failings; or
  • Compels any person to do any act, or to refrain from doing any lawful act, against his will

Proof of intention is the most important element of a blackmail case. South Carolina law requires the addition of intent of the blackmailer to extort money or any other thing of value from a victim. Those found guilty of blackmail prove to have purposely threatened the exposure of information to get another person to do something or pay money.

Court punishments and defenses

Depending on the severity and damages related to your crime, if a court finds you guilty of blackmail, you may be subjected to:

  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Imprisoned for up to 10 years

Though blackmail proves to contain serious criminal punishments, experienced attorneys often find loopholes to aid clients. Attorneys may use any of the following scenarios as your defense in a blackmail case.

  • You were intoxicated
  • You committed the act against your own will
  • You lacked the mental capacity to commit the crime
  • The court finds a lack of evidence
  • You did not knowingly make a threat
  • The device you used to send the Internet threat was illegally confiscated/searched

If you are charged with blackmail, do not panic. You are not alone in your defense. Determining the exact circumstances of your case will be the first priority of a court, and understanding each element for conviction may help you better understand you own case and prevent future issues with internet blackmail.

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