Extortion, blackmail, coercion: the three concepts respond to a criminal typology that may involve, if proven, criminal sentences of a minimum of one year to a maximum of five if such activity is proven.

Although all these actions are equally despicable and intolerable, there are crucial differences between them that distinguish them for legal purposes .

Coercion, extortion and blackmail: how to distinguish them?

In this article we will objectively analyze each of these cases and clarify what distinguishes them from each other.

What is extortion?

Extortion is a type of crime or criminology that refers to situations in which a subject in question forces another subject, a holder of property and patrimonial wealth, to omit or perform a legal act against him (of the owner, the extorted), all this through intimidating acts such as violence or threat .

In this case, the taxpayer or victim is seriously harmed economically , since the ultimate purpose of the extortion activity is profit, the desire to benefit economically, leaving the person affected no option due to his or her narrow margin of reaction or negotiation.

The methods for successfully carrying out extortion are usually intimidation, which, in order to ensure that the victim is persuaded, usually goes directly to physical violence, with verbal threats first being made to try to convince the victim, as discretion is preferred by the offenders.

Defining the concept of coercion

Coercion has a defining complexity worth analyzing. The coercive act is, legally and technically speaking, a voluntary act by a subject A who, in turn, has been intimidated by another subject B to subtract, steal or take possession of a movable or immovable property of a third subject C.

Although the action is, as we have noted, voluntary, the subject in question is not and has not been free to determine his or her conduct as he or she has previously been threatened by the offending individual.

However, it is important to emphasize the element of threat as a variable dependent on the attitude of the coerced, since this cannot be a simple verbal threat . There must be clear mitigating factors for serious harm, including physical injury or the threat of violence against a family member or friend, for example.

Furthermore, such a threat by coercion must be imminent, irremediable and unavoidable without the coerced person having any opportunity to react or to evade the threat.

And the blackmail, how is that defined?

Finally we come to the definition of blackmail. In this sense, blackmail is part of a further process by which a person decides to profit from another person by threatening to harm the blackmailed person if he or she does not comply with his or her requests.

In short, blackmail refers to the defamation or dissemination of something private into the public sphere with the aim of doing emotional harm in particular. For example, a husband who is unfaithful to his wife is photographed red-handed and someone else contacts him to ask him for a sum of money to silence the scandal.

Within the blackmail we find another type, of a non-profit character: the emotional one. In this case it is used so that one person can influence the thoughts of another, in a sensory way, by manipulating the thoughts of the affected person . No benefit is expected in return, simply that the recipient changes his/her attitude.

The main differences between the three concepts

It is not always easy to identify and interpret the differences between the three offences, since they all pursue the same end, that of harming the other for one reason or another, in favour of oneself . Therefore, it would be necessary to investigate the cases individually, studying the elements and variables involved in order to conclude which one corresponds to reality.

However, there are some elements that distinguish such similar concepts. In the case of extortion, the offense may be plural. Movable or immovable property, the physical integrity of third parties or freedom is harmed.

On the contrary, coercion is usually a direct and immediate action , which must be consumed ipso facto, and makes the affected person act for him (coercion). Although in many cases the coercion responds to a lucrative purpose, it can be of another nature. That is, to make a person hurt another person against his will for the simple pleasure of doing him physical harm.

Finally, blackmail is perhaps the one that distances itself the most from the two previous ones . Blackmail can also be of a lucrative nature, but the violence is minimal and the gift of speech is what usually consummates the act of conviction in the injured party. Moreover, emotional blackmail is not considered a crime or is very difficult to prove, making it extremely complex to prevent such cases from occurring.