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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Harassment and Extortion

They Took a Video of WHAT!?

What do you do if someone is threatening to do something (say, post a video) against you unless you pay them money, or give them something?

There are really three avenues here. The first is criminal law. You can swear a warrant out against the offending individual. The code section is VA Code 18.2-59 and reads in pertinent part:

"Any person who (i) threatens injury to the character, person, or property of another person, (ii) accuses him of any offense...and thereby extorts money, property, or pecuniary benefit or any note, bond, or other evidence of debt from him or any other person, is guilty of a Class 5 felony."

Saunter down to the local magistrate office (usually at the adult detention center, but contact the non-emergency police number, and they can provide the proper address for your locale) and bring proof of the threat.

A moment to digress here -- as this applies to both criminal and civil (below). In order to move forward, you must have some proof that the person is threatening you. Your case will fall flat if there is not some extrinsic (that means other than you) evidence to support your allegation. Did he call you? Did she text you? Is it on facebook or email? Think this through -- you will need to provide evidence of the purported wrongdoing ere the police or the Court can help you.

In this situation, the second approach is to obtain a civil injunction against the person. This essentially states that the individual is injoined (stopped) from doing some act by Court order. If they do it anyway, they will be heavily fined or even put in jail. The Virginia Code has many different section dealing with protective orders and civil injunctions. See for example, 19.2-152.9 and 10 which state in part:

The court may issue a protective order pursuant to this chapter to protect the health and safety of the petitioner and family or household members of a petitioner upon (i) the issuance of a petition or warrant for, or a conviction of, any criminal offense resulting from the commission of an act of violence, force, or threat or (ii) a hearing held pursuant to subsection D of § 19.2-152.9.

You would injoin the wrong-doer from threatening you and from posting any video or other private material.

Remember, you cannot stop someone from posting an already public video, although you can argue that that public material, purposely misused or misconstrued against you, is grounds for harassment (leading you to file a protective order).

Thirdly, if the individual actually published the offending material, and you were harmed by it, then you could also sue for slander and/or libel (essentially the same effect, just differs on how the material was published). This is a civil action (called a "tort"), and you can obtain a significant judgment if found credible by a jury.

Are you suffering from harassment, or extortion? Don't put up with it! If you are in the DC, Virginia, or Maryland areas, contact us -- we can help. 703-402-2723

Sean Hanover, Esq.
Hanover Law
Offices in Fairfax and DC
888 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20006

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