They’re words that some people use interchangeably, but don’t mean the same thing. Both are considered “white-collar” crimes and usually involve money. There are some similarities, but the elements are different.
On a basic level, both extortion and bribery involve the exchange of property in return for something else. Here, we’ll discuss the difference.
This generally involves an individual demanding payment or other compensation in exchange for doing or not doing something. This felony is covered by North Carolina (G.S. 14-118.4), which reads:
Any person who threatens or communicates a threat or threat to another with the intention thereby wrongfully to obtain anything of value or any acquittance, advantage, or immunity is guilty of extortion and such person shall be punished as a Class F felon.
This can take the form of someone who threatens to publish embarrassing information about an individual if the victim doesn’t pay or a person who threatens to do harm to a business unless the business owner pays the demander a sum of money. Celebrities are frequent targets of such activity, but anyone can be in the same situation.
Extortion occurs when an individual communicates a threat or outright threatens another person with a “wrongful intent” to acquire:
- Something of value
- Confirmation of the settlement of a debt or a fine
- Any type of advantage
The courts interpret the “wrongful intent” as the acquisition of the property, and not the threat. Because extortion is a Class F felony, a conviction can bring anywhere from 10 to 41 months of incarceration, depending on any prior convictions.
Although blackmail is frequently combined with extortion, North Carolina treats it as a separate charge under NC General Statutes 14-118 and is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Different than extortion, bribery frequently involves government employees or officials, and involves the exchange for a sum of money or something else of value, usually influence or other favorable treatment, such as the awarding of government contracts. Bribery can also involve private citizens or corporate entities that pay another person or entity for something of value. These arrangements frequently have no paper trail, so it’s up to the prosecutor to prove that bribery took place.
Conversely, a public official can also be guilty of bribery if they solicited and initiated the activity. Bribes can be monetary, or anything of value, such as any type of goods, property, favors, or services.
The act of bribery does not have to involve the possibility of harming the public interest in order to be illegal. NC Gen Stat § 14-218 (2019) states that individuals convicted of bribery will be punished as a Class F felon, which can include jail time from 10 to 41 months depending on any prior convictions. This applies whether an individual offers a bribe and is accepted or not, or attempting to bribe a juror.
Dewey P. Brinkley Is Ready To Defend You
Although extortion and bribery are similar, they are two separate charges with different meanings. Accusations of either or both charges can be devastating. A conviction can lead to serious, long-term consequences.
Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, NC who understands the criminal justice system, and how to defend you against both of these charges.