Extortion vs. Coercion – How to Tell the Difference and Why it Matters

extortion vs. coercion

When it comes to extortion vs. coercion, we have to understand that those two crimes are similar in nature but different in purpose. Extortion’s purpose is to obtain money or property, while coercion’s purpose is to compel a particular action. When accused of either coercion or extortion, a good criminal lawyer in New York can advise you of the correct legal strategy to employ, given the circumstances of the case.


When looking at extortion vs. coercion, we then have to examine the meaning of extortion. Extortion employs the use of fear of physical injury or property damage upon the victim or someone known to the victim, but for the purpose of obtaining money or property.

Extortion is defined in Section 155.02 of the New York Penal Law, and generally considered grand larceny in the 4th degree, a Class E felony punishable with a maximum of 4 years in prison. Extortion to the 2nd degree, a Class C felony punishable with a maximum of up to 15 years in prison, is committed when the property or money is taken by threatening physical injury, damage to another person’s property, or abuse of one’s position as a public servant.

An affirmative defense is that the actor had reason to believe that the threatened charge was true and his sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.


When considering extortion vs. coercion, we have to first look at how coercion is defined. Coercion in the third degree, as defined under Section 135.60 of the New York Penal Code, is committed when an actor compels or induces another to engage in or abstain from conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from or engage in, by instilling a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another person will:

    • cause physical injury or property damage
    • engage in other conduct constituting a crime
    • accuse some person of a crime
    • expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact
    • cause a strike or boycott
    • testify or withhold testimony
    • use public position to adversely affect someone, or
    • harm another person’s health, safety, business, career, reputation or personal relations

Coercion in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, which can be punishable by a maximum of one year in jail or three years of probation. Coercion becomes a Class E felony when it is in the second degree, committed when coercion is used to compel or induce a person to engage in sexual conduct. Coercion in the first degree is a Class D felony, committed when coercion is combined with threat of physical injury or property damage or used to compel the victim to commit or attempt to commit a felony, cause physical injury to a person, or violate his duty as a public servant.

Coercion can also be a defense to a criminal charge.

Because of the many different ways extortion vs. coercion can be committed, there are many defenses to a coercion charge. A good criminal attorney will help the accused evaluate the case, review the evidence, and see whether the accused’s conduct can be mitigated to lower the charge to a violation, adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or dismissal.

For example, if the charge is based on physical injury, the seriousness of the physical injury threatened can be questioned. If the charge is based on property damage, the amount of damage to property that can compel a person to act can also be put in issue. When accused of coercion, it is best to immediately get competent counsel because this could affect your criminal record, your employment, your licenses, or your immigration status.

Extortion vs. coercion and criminal defense lawyers

A good criminal defense lawyer will be able to propose alternative sentences, in case evidence of guilt is strong, such as drug diversion, or if evidence is weak, plea bargain a charge to a misdemeanor or violation which may carry a non-criminal outcome of disorderly conduct and adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.

If you are looking for an extortion or coercion defense lawyer in New York City, Brooklyn, NY or Queens, NY, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We can be reached at 212-233-1233.

Attorney Albert Goodwin

Law Offices of
Albert Goodwin, PLLC
31 W 34 Str, Suite 7058
New York, NY 10001
[email protected]