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What is the Crime of “Sextortion” and What Are the Penalties?

What is the Crime of “Sextortion” and What Are the Penalties?


Sexual extortion — or “sextortion” — occurs when a person forces someone else to engage in sexually related conduct under threat of exposing private or personal information. Pennsylvania made sextortion a criminal offense in 2020.

Pennsylvania law sets forth these examples of conduct that is considered to be sextortion:

  • Harming or threatening to harm the individual, their reputation, their property or anything of value to them
  • Making or disseminating, or threatening to make or disseminate, a video or image of the individual naked or engaged in a sexual act
  • Exposing or threatening to expose information that would result in the individual becoming involved in a criminal or civil proceeding, or would subject them to hatred, embarrassment, or ridicule
  • Withholding or threatening to withhold a service, job, or anything else of value from the individual
  • Causing or threatening to harm to the individual or their family or household member

The penalties for a sextortion conviction vary depending on the circumstances. The offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, if the alleged victim is 18 or older, then the charge will be a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalties for which include up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

The penalties are even harsher when the victim is under 18, has an intellectual disability or is victimized by someone in a position of trust or supervision. In these situations, sextortion becomes a third-degree felony. This sex crime also rises to the third-degree felony level when the alleged perpetrator has a pattern of this type of behavior or has a prior conviction for a similar offense. Punishments for a third-degree felony include up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

Federal law also criminalizes sextortion, particularly when the victim is a minor. A person who sexually exploits children or attempts to do so faces a minimum of 15 years in prison or a minimum of 25 years if the offender has a prior conviction for a sex crime against a minor.

Sextortion is a very serious charge at both the state and federal levels. At the Law Offices of David Jay Glassman, we know how to defend clients against these accusations. If you have been arrested on sex crime charges, call our Philadelphia law firm anytime, 24 hours a day, at 215-563-7100 or contact us online and we will respond as soon as we can.