In Washington it is illegal knowingly to obtain or attempt to obtain by threat property or services of the owner. See RCW 9A.56.110. Extortion and blackmail are closely related topics. There is no clear definition of the difference, but a common distinction made is that blackmail is a form of extortion that threatens to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging information about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless money is paid to purchase silence.
RCW 9A.56.120 Extortion in the first degree.-
(1) A person is guilty of extortion in the first degree if he or she commits extortion by means of a threat as defined in RCW 9A.04.110(27) (a), (b), or (c).
(2) Extortion in the first degree is a class B felony.
RCW 9A.56.130 Extortion in the second degree.-
(1) A person is guilty of extortion in the second degree if he or she commits extortion by means of a wrongful threat as defined in *RCW 9A.04.110(25) (d) through (j)
(2) In any prosecution under this section based on a threat to accuse any person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against any person, it is a defense that the actor reasonably believed the threatened criminal charge to be true and that his or her sole purpose was to compel or induce the person threatened to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened criminal charge.
(3) Extortion in the second degree is a class C felony.
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This answer is not intended to be a substitute for personalized legal advice. I have presented only an overview of the legal issues. There are many nuances and some exceptions to general legal principles. Real problems are very fact based.. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult an attorney.
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