According to Reuters, sextortion is not recognized as a crime in many states throughout the country. Sextortion is defined as a type of extortion that involves the use of sexual images or sexual acts. There are new calls to make sextortion illegal, especially in light of recent sexual assault allegations being raised in response to news breaking that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein allegedly committed sexual harassment for years. Weinstein’s actions are being described as a classic case of sextortion as he abused his power and position to coerce people into engaging in sexual behavior to avoid having their career threatened or to advance their career.
Sexual extortion, in certain forms, may already be prohibited under various laws prohibiting sexual harassment. However, victims’ advocates worry that these laws do not go far enough and do not criminalize all instances of sextortion that occur. There is a strong push being made to pass new laws throughout the country making sextortion explicitly criminal.
If advocates are successful in getting the rules changed and new laws are passed with a broad definition of illegal sextortion, this could potentially lead to more people being prosecuted and facing life-changing criminal charges. If you are one of those who is prosecuted, a New York City federal sex crime defense attorney should be consulted to provide you with help in fighting charges. If you are accused under current sexual assault laws, it is also imperative to get legal help right away as a conviction for a sex crime could lead to jail time, required registration, and other serious penalties.
Those who are advocating for new laws against sextortion indicate that sexual extortion could take many different forms. For example, sextortion could involve bribery cases in which sex, not money, is the item of value. Sextortion could also take the form of a perpetrator of the offense coercing victims to engage in sexual acts or to provide sexual images. Sextortion could also include blackmail.
Because there are so many behaviors that could potentially fall under the umbrella of sextortion, making a clear law prohibiting specific types of conduct could be challenging. However, some states have already begun to criminalize sextortion by expanding existing extortion laws. For example, sextortion will be a crime beginning in 2018 in California after the governor signed a bill amending extortion laws to include coercion by sexual acts or coercion in connection with sexually explicit images.
Four additional states - Utah, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas - have also acted recently to pass laws making sextortion illegal, as has the District of Columbia. Pending legislation in congress would make sextortion illegal nationwide, and advocates are targeting an additional 10 to 15 states this year to try to prompt local rules to change.
With so much pressure on lawmakers to act, there is a very real possibility that sextortion will become unlawful in some form throughout much of the country. If anyone is accused of sextortion, it will become important to consult with a New York City federal sex crime defense attorney to find out about how to fight charges for this serious offense.