What Is the Difference Between Extortion and Bribery in NC?

You may be under the impression that bribery and extortion are the same things, but they are not. While many people use these terms interchangeably and they are both considered to be “white-collar” crimes often involving money, the elements of each are different. 


Extortion is a crime that involves demanding payment or compensation of another kind in exchange for either doing something or abstaining from doing something. Under North Carolina law:

Any person who threatens or communicates a threat or threatens another with the intent to wrongfully obtain something of value or an advantage, immunity, or acquittal, has performed extortion. Wrongful intent is viewed in relation to acquiring the property and not the threat itself. Threats are inherently wrong in nature. 

In other words, extortion occurs when someone communicates a threat or directly threatens someone else with the wrongful intent to acquire one of the following:

  • Something of value
  • The settlement of a fine or a debt
  • Immunity
  • Any other type of advantage

Extortion is a Class F felony, which can carry 10 to 41 months in prison. Prior convictions play a role as to the exact amount of time someone will be sentenced to. It’s important to note that blackmail, while commonly combined with extortion, is not the same charge. North Carolina treats blackmail as a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

Examples of extortion include:

  • Someone threatens to do harm to an auto dealership unless the owner of the dealership agrees to waive the extra fees on a car.
  • A defendant threatens to publish private, embarrassing information about a judge unless he or she drops the charges. 
  • Someone threatens to share nude photos of someone else unless they pay a certain amount of money.

Although celebrities and individuals in power are often the targets of extortion plots, anyone can attempt to extort anyone else – regardless of who they are – so long as the elements of the crime are met. 


Bribery is different from extortion in that it usually involves government officials or employees. It too involves the exchange of money or something else of value (e.g. favorable treatment). However, bribery can also involve corporate entities or private citizens. Bribery tends to have no paper trail, which requires a lot of work from the prosecutor to prove that it even occurred, to begin with. It’s important to note that it’s not only government officials or employees who can be bribed. Government officials or employees can be the ones committing bribery. Whether or not the bribe was accepted is irrelevant to the commission of the crime itself. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Extortion of Bribery

A conviction for extortion or bribery can have a significant impact on your life. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!