What Is Sextortion?

Sextortion involves the use of coercion or threats to force an individual to send sexually explicit photos and/or videos of themselves. Essentially, the term is short for sexual extortion.

The person seeking to obtain the sexually explicit materials might attempt to force the individual's compliance in various ways. They may threaten to disseminate such content they already possess of the individual to others. For instance, they might say they're going to send the videos or photos to family and friends or post them online.

Another method perpetrators use is making threats of physical harm. For example, they might demand sexually explicit materials and tell the alleged victim that if they do not comply, the perpetrator or an accomplice will injure them or a loved one. Because of technology's capabilities, these threats are often coupled with support that makes them more credible. For instance, the alleged perpetrator might include the individual's address or other personal identifying information with the threat.

Often, sextortion offenses are committed against people under 18 years of age. Thus, the FBI diligently investigates these matters, and a U.S. Attorney will harshly prosecute. But you won't find "sextortion" specifically listed under the law. Rather, such offenses are pursued under other statutes. Also, because sextortion typically involves the use of social media platforms, and communications often cross state lines, it is mostly prosecuted as a federal crime.

What Federal Statutes Concern Sextortion?

The government may charge a person suspected of sextortion with several different offenses.

A few of the most common include:

  • Extortion: Under 18 U.S.C. § 875, one way extortion is committed is by using threats to harm or kidnap a person to obtain something of value. For the offense to be considered a federal crime, the threat must be transmitted through interstate (or foreign) communication. A conviction can result in a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 20 years.
  • Sexual exploitation of a child: As mentioned earlier, sextortion involves coercing another person to send explicit content of themselves. When such a demand is made to a minor, the purpose of which is to produce a visual depiction of them engaged in a sexual act, the conduct is considered exploitation of a minor. The offense is punishable by between 15 and 20 years in prison, as well as a fine. However, if the defendant was previously convicted of this or a related crime, the minimum term of imprisonment is 25 years and the maximum is 50. The incarceration sentence bumps up again upon a third or subsequent conviction. Under these circumstances, the offense is punishable by 35 years to life in prison.
  • Producing child pornography: Because sextortion usually involves children under 18 years of age, any person who coerces a minor to send them explicit content can be charged with child pornography. If they're found guilty, a court can imprison them for a maximum of 20 years. Upon a second conviction, the individual may face up to 40 years in prison.

At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., our Minneapolis attorneys take all criminal matters seriously. If you've been charged, call us at (612) 979-1112 or contact us online. We'll work toward obtaining a favorable outcome on your behalf.