A man from out of state was arrested by authorities in Pensacola. The police accused him of extorting a Pensacola businessman.

According to police, the man and a woman, whom the Pensacola businessman knew, met and asked the businessman for over $1,000. The businessman initially said he would not turn over the money, even though he had supported the woman in the past.

The man then allegedly told the businessman that he would say that the businessman had raped the woman. He supposedly said he would tell the businessman’s family and also make a police report.

The businessman gave the couple $1,200. He told police that during the encounter, the woman did not say anything and seemed very out of sorts.

Extortion is a felony under Florida law

Under Florida law, a person may not threaten to accuse a person of a crime in order to extract money or get the person to do or not do something.

The threat has to be what the law calls malicious, which, basically, means the person making the threat has to have bad motive for doing so. It is not a crime, for example, to call someone out for their bad behavior.

Other threats, including threats to accuse a person of an affair or financial impropriety, or even just to expose a sensitive secret, can also be extortion.

Extortion is a felony under Florida law, which means a conviction can both land a person in prison and carry other serious consequences.

Not every tough negotiation or unpleasant encounter, though, is a criminal act. Sometimes, police can be overly zealous in turning what really was a civil matter into a criminal offense. Someone accused of extortion should therefore evaluate his or her legal options carefully.