CALCRIM No. 1831. Extortion by Threatening Letter (Pen. Code, § 523)

Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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1831.Extortion by Threatening Letter (Pen. Code, § 523)
The defendant is charged [in Count ] with sending a threatening
letter with the intent to extort [in violation of Penal Code section 523].
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must
prove that:
1. The defendant sent or delivered a threatening letter [or other
writing] to another person;
<Alternative 2A - threatened to injure>
[2. In the letter [or writing], the defendant threatened to unlawfully
injure (the other person or someone else/ [or] the property of the
other person or someone else);]
<Alternative 2B - threatened to accuse of crime>
[2. In the letter [or writing], the defendant threatened to accuse the
other person[, or that person’s relative or family member,] of a
<Alternative 2C - threatened to expose secret>
[2. In the letter [or writing], the defendant threatened to expose a
secret about the other person[, or that person’s relative or family
member,] [or to expose or connect (him/her/any of them) with a
(disgrace[,]/ [or] crime[,]/ [or] deformity)];]
3. When sending or delivering the letter [or writing], the defendant
intended to use fear to obtain (money [or property]/[or] the
performance of an official act) with the other person’s consent.
The term consent has a special meaning here. Consent for extortion can
be coerced or unwilling, as long as it is given as a result of the wrongful
use of force or fear.
[The threat can be directly stated in the letter [or writing] or can be
implied by the contents of the letter [or writing] and the surrounding
circumstances or can be intended by the sender to be understood as a
threat by the recipient.]
[Threatening to do something that a person has a legal right to do is not
a threat to commit an unlawful injury.]
[The letter [or writing] does not need to be signed and does not need to
have been (written/dictated/composed) by the defendant.]
[The crime is complete when the letter [or writing] is either delivered to
someone or deposited in a post office or any other place, with the intent
that the letter [or writing] be forwarded to the intended recipient. It is
not required that the intended recipient actually receive the letter [or
[It is not required that the intended recipient actually (give the
defendant money [or property]/ [or] do an official act).]
[An official act is an act that a person does in his or her official capacity,
using the authority of his or her public office.]
[A secret is a fact that:
1. Is unknown to the general public or to someone who might be
interested in knowing the fact;
2. Harms the threatened person’s reputation or other interest so
greatly that he or she would be likely to (give the defendant
money[or property]/ [or] do an official act) to prevent the fact
from being revealed.]
New January 2006
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to give this instruction defining the elements of the
Depending on the evidence, in element 2, give the appropriate alternative A-C
describing the threat. (Pen. Code, § 519.)
Elements. Pen. Code, § 523.
Crime Complete When Mailed. Pen. Code, § 660.
Felony Punishment. Pen. Code, § 520.
Threats. Pen. Code, § 519.
Coerced Consent. People v. Goodman (1958) 159 Cal.App.2d 54, 61 [323 P.2d
536]; People v. Peck (1919) 43 Cal.App. 638, 645 [185 P. 881] [extortion under
Pen. Code, §§ 518, 519].
Official Act Defined. See People v. Mayfield (1997) 14 Cal.4th 668, 769-773 [60
Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 928 P.2d 485] [kidnapping for extortion]; People v. Norris (1985)
40 Cal.3d 51, 55-56 [219 Cal.Rptr. 7, 706 P.2d 1141] [same].
Secret Defined. People v. Lavine (1931) 115 Cal.App. 289, 295 [1 P.2d 496]
[extortion under Pen. Code, §§ 518, 519].
Unlawful Injury Defined. People v. Schmitz (1908) 7 Cal.App. 330, 369-370 [94
P. 407] [extortion under Pen. Code, §§ 518, 519].
Threat to Accuse of Crime Includes Threat to Continue Pursuit of Criminal
Charge. People v. Umana (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 625, 640-641 [41 Cal.Rptr.3d
Adding “official act” to section 518 expanded the definition of extortion in the
related code sections, including section 523, to include extortion of an official act.
(Isaac v. Superior Court (1978) 79 Cal.App.3d 260, 263-264 [146 Cal.Rptr. 396].)
Attempted Extortion. Pen. Code, § 524.
2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Crimes Against
Property, § 125.
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 143,
&it;Crimes Against Property, § 143.02 (Matthew Bender).

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