Is Blackmail a Crime in Canada?

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We’ve all seen blackmail play out in television shows and books, but in many cases, it seems as if the act goes unpunished. This oftentimes makes it seem as if extorting someone for gain is just something a person can do whenever they feel like it. In reality, many jurisdictions treat such actions as serious crimes. So, is blackmail a crime in Canada?

Unlike many other areas of the law, there isn’t much nuance to this question. If you’ve been charged with blackmail in Toronto or anywhere in Canada, it’s time to seek assistance from an experienced legal professional.

Is Blackmail Illegal in Canada?

There really are no complexities to national statutes in this situation: blackmail is illegal. However, you may have trouble finding these laws if you’re searching through our country’s legal texts. That’s because the crime is known as extortion, and it can carry some stiff consequences.

Extortion is an indictable offence. This means that a conviction can lead to substantial prison time. Even worse for those charged with the crime, there is no statute of limitations under the law. This means that a person could be charged years after allegedly engaging in behaviours that meet the legal definition of blackmail.

What’s the Legal Definition of Extortion?

The Criminal Code of Canada specifies which actions constitute extortion. There’s plenty of legal jargon in the statute, but the elements of blackmail essentially break down into the following:

  • Use of threats, violence, accusations, or menacing.
  • The defendant intended to get something from their target or force them to do something.
  • The underlying threats or violence were made to force the other individual into doing something.
  • The threats were made “without reasonable justification or excuse.”

When all of these elements undeniably exist, the Crown Attorney will likely be able to secure a conviction. And since prosecutors are not supposed to move forward with charges without a reasonable belief that a conviction can be secured, your best bet is to seek legal counsel if you’re ever accused of this indictable offence.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Blackmail Charges?

As an indictable offence, blackmail can result in serious punitive measures. The most severe potential consequence, however, is life in prison. This is certainly a worst-case scenario, which would likely involve aggravating factors, but the fact that such a sentence is even possible should terrify anyone accused of the crime.

Fortunately, there are no minimum sentences for an extortion conviction unless a prohibited firearm was used or the act involved organized crime in some way. This means someone charged under the statute may be able to negotiate a more lenient sentence with the help of an extortion lawyer in Toronto.

The circumstances of the case will obviously affect the eventual outcome, but since blackmail is a serious crime, no one should take these charges lightly.

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