707-769 Defenses to extortion. (1) It is a defense to a prosecution for extortion as defined by paragraph (1) of section 707-764 that the defendant:

(a) Was unaware that the property or service was that of another; or

(b) Believed that the defendant was entitled to the property or services under a claim of right or that the defendant was authorized, by the owner or by law, to obtain or exert control as the defendant did.

(2) If the owner of the property is the defendant's spouse or reciprocal beneficiary, it is a defense to a prosecution for extortion under paragraph (1) of section 707-764 that:

(a) The property which is obtained or over which unauthorized control is exerted constitutes household belongings; and

(b) The defendant and the defendant's spouse or reciprocal beneficiary were living together at the time of the conduct.

(3) "Household belongings" means furniture, personal effects, vehicles, or money or its equivalent in amounts customarily used for household purposes, and other property usually found in and about the common dwelling and accessible to its occupants.

(4) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for extortion as defined in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 707-764 and as further defined by subparagraphs (e), (f), (g), and (i), that the defendant believed the threatened accusation, penal charge, or exposure to be true, or the proposed action of a public servant was justified, and that the defendant's sole intention was to compel or induce the victim to give property or services to the defendant due the defendant as restitution or indemnification for harm done, or as compensation for property obtained or lawful services performed, or to induce the victim to take reasonable action to prevent or to remedy the wrong which was the subject of the threatened accusation, charge, exposure, or action of a public servant in circumstances to which the threat relates.

(5) In a prosecution for extortion as defined in paragraph (1) of section 707-764, it is not a defense that the defendant has an interest in the property if the owner has an interest in the property to which the defendant is not entitled. [L 1979, c 106, pt of 1; gen ch 1993; am L 1997, c 383, 68; am L 2015, c 35, 25]


Case Notes


Defendant's attempt to obtain plaintiff's property was made under claim of [sic] right. 855 F. Supp. 1156 (1994).


COMMENTARY ON 707-764 TO 707-769


Act 106, Session Laws 1979, established these sections as part of a consolidation of laws pertaining to extortion wherein the legislature sought to make those laws simpler and more comprehensive. The legislature rejected a provision making acts which caused the victim "great mental anguish" extortion in the first degree on the grounds that such a standard is too subjective, and would differ from one individual to the next. Conference Committee Report No. 43.

Act 28, Session Laws 1993, amended 707-766 by stating the elements of the offense of extortion in the second degree in the disjunctive, consistent with the intent of the 1979 legislature in enacting that section, and by making the language of that section gender neutral. House Standing Committee Report No. 190, Senate Standing Committee Report No. 1121.

Act 383, Session Laws 1997, amended 707-769 to provide a defense to prosecution for extortion to reciprocal beneficiaries. In establishing the status of reciprocal beneficiaries, the Act provides certain rights and benefits, and represents a commitment to provide substantially similar government rights to those couples who are barred by law from marriage. Conference Committee Report No. 2.

Act 33, Session Laws 2001, strengthened the State's computer crime laws by, among other things, amending 707-764 to clarify the offense of extortion to include threatening by word or conduct to cause damage to a computer, computer system, or computer network. The legislature found that society was adopting at a rapid pace, computer technology to conduct activities of daily living. Computer technology was being utilized not only for purposes of business and recreation, but also for criminal activity. Thus, computer-related criminal activity was on the rise as society's dependence on computers increased. Senate Standing Committee Report No. 1508.

Act 147, Session Laws 2008, amended 707-764 by adding a reference to unlawfully obtaining "labor" [in paragraph (1)], and by adding as an element of the offense of extortion, to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess a passport or other government identification or immigration document of another person. The legislature strengthened the laws on prostitution and related offenses to deter and punish sexual exploitation of minors, including obscenity-related activities. Conference Committee Report No. 38-08.

Act 147, Session Laws 2008, amended 707-765(1), 707-666(1), and 707-767(1) by adding a reference to "labor" as an element of the offenses of extortion in the first, second, and third degrees. Conference Committee Report No. 38-08.

Act 35, Session Laws 2015, amended 707-769(1) by changing the phrase "claim or right" to "claim of right."



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