blackmail

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Blackmail

The crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person's money or property.

The term blackmail originally denoted a payment made by English persons residing along the border of Scotland to influential Scottish chieftains in exchange for protection from thieves and marauders.

In blackmail the threat might consist of physical injury to the threatened person or to someone loved by that person, or injury to a person's reputation. In some cases the victim is told that an illegal act he or she had previously committed will be exposed if the victim fails to comply with the demand.

Although blackmail is generally synonymous with Extortion, some states distinguish the offenses by requiring that the former be in writing.

Blackmail is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.

Cross-references

Threats.

blackmail

n. the crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat. It is one form of extortion (which may include other threats such as physical harm or damage to property). (See: extortion)

blackmail

noun exaction, extortion, hush money, illegal compulsion, oppressive exaction, protection, ransom, shakedown, taking by undue exercise of power
See also: coercion, compel, extort, extortion, graft, hush money, threaten

blackmail

in English law, a person is guilty of blackmail if, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces and for this purpose menaces are unwarranted unless the person making it does so in the belief that he had reasonable grounds for making the demand and that the use of menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand. For Scotland, see EXTORTION.
References in classic literature ?
What do you mean by coming here and trying to blackmail me?
Lord Amber went into wild society in a sort of chivalry; now he's paying blackmail to the lowest vultures in London.
Not for the first time, he was threatened with blackmail.
Perhaps a thought of blackmail occurred to him as a useful possibility in helping him in his designs on Mademoiselle Stangerson.