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The Law on Blackmail in Germany

The crime of blackmail is undoubtedly not a new offence. Blackmail has a long history and is still a significant crime. The idea of coercing another person into doing something against their will has been around for a very long time. In the modern age, we must contend with the use of technology to perform blackmail and to carry out extortion. German law provides criminal liability on those found guilty of committing blackmail and extortion. Such a crime can be a prison sentence of up to five years. In more extreme cases, sentencing can even reach ten years imprisonment.

On this page, we will provide an outline of German law in the area of blackmail. However, this page should not be considered as a substitute for legal advice. If you find yourself in a situation where you need legal advice or representation on a charge of blackmail, please get in touch with us directly. Our criminal law team is experienced and knowledgeable in criminal law matters in Germany and can provide you with clear advice in both German and English. Contact us today using the contact form below this page if you need specialised assistance. Our legal professionals are looking forward to working with you.

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Blackmail / Extortion under German Law

Blackmail under German law is defined by § 253 StGB (German Criminal Code) and it states the following:

(1) Whoever unlawfully, by force or threat of serious harm, coerces a person to do, acquiesce to or refrain from an act, and thereby damages that person’s or another’s assets for the purpose of wrongful personal enrichment or enrichment of a third party, incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine.

(2) The act is unlawful if the use of force or the threat of harm is deemed reprehensible in respect of the desired objective.

(3) The attempt is punishable.

(4) In especially serious cases, the penalty is imprisonment for a term of at least one year. An especially serious case typically occurs where the offender acts on a commercial basis or as a member of a gang whose purpose is the continued commission of extortion.

From this definition we can see that blackmail / extortion concerns the blackmailer coercing the victim to perform actions (or not perform / inactions), refers to the enrichment of the blackmailer or a third party by the act of blackmail / extortion and also refers to the attempt of the action. Therefore, it is not necessary that the action of blackmail is successful for a case to be brought against a person. Should the coercion take the form of force or violence that is illegal under § 255 StGB.


Forms of Blackmail

Although blackmail and extortion are criminal actions with long histories, the form they take has of course developed alongside technology. The internet, smart phones and technology generally has changed the face of blackmail. With the increased access to devices with video recording, audio recording and photography it has never been easier to accumulate compromising information on other people. Beware of recording compromising videos and taking such photos of yourself as they can be used later in extortion cases.

Internet scams are common in modern times as corrupting viruses, links to child pornography and much more can easily be sent out to users. Those involved can then send requests for cash payments or other actions in order to unlock your computer or permanently delete what they have sent. Consult with a legal professional if you find yourself in a difficult situation due to such actions. Find out more about Cybercrime in Germany by reading our article on the topic.


What are the Legal Consequences of Blackmail?

Blackmail is a criminal law offence and therefore carries heavy sanctions should one be found guilty. Should a person be found guilty of it can reach up to five years imprisonment. Those guilty can also face fines for this action. Attempted blackmail is also punishable by law. Should a case involve those in a gang or in organised crime, then the sentencing will be likely to be on the higher end of the scale. Other factors will also be considered such as cases involving violence and dangers to the life of the person, these cases will carry heavy sanctions.

Kidnapping for the purpose of extortion is also punishable by law. This crime is listed under § 239a StGB  and such cases can result in imprisonment for up to five years. In some cases, the sentence can be life imprisonment. This occurs in cases where the action of this extortion results in the reckless death of the victim.


Victims of Blackmail

If you are a victim of blackmail, then make sure to inform the police immediately. Blackmail is not a trivial crime and is one that requires direct action. Fighting blackmail from the start is the best way to prevent it from causing further damage. Gather evidence, find witnesses where possible and from there file a complaint against the alleged perpetrator. Once you present your details to the police, they will be able to provide the assistance needed.

If you are unsure of what to do when it comes to gathering evidence or how to launch an official complaint, then make sure to contact a lawyer. An experienced criminal lawyer can provide the clear and concise advice needed when it comes to taking the next step.


Defence Lawyer in Blackmail Cases

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our criminal law legal team works with clients based all over Germany. Serious consequences arise from a charge of blackmail and extortion, such as lengthy periods in prison and fines. However, having an experienced lawyer at your defence will be of enormous benefit to your case. The services of a well-versed legal professional will provide guidance on strategy, find holes in the prosecution case should they exist, settle cases outside of court where that is more suitable and generally use their expertise on your behalf. It can often be the case that acquittal can be gained due to the suspicion not being of a sufficient level that it equates to proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you need a defence attorney then make sure to contact us without delay. The more time our defence lawyers have, to work on your case, the more time we can dedicate to formulating strategies and to working closely with you. We will examine the evidence presented, question the “facts” presented by the witnesses and really scrutinize whether the attributed motivation given is credible. Only with experienced and knowledgeable defence council can you be assured that you are giving yourself the best opportunity in such a case.

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Practice Group: German Criminal Law

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Lawyer: Aykut Elseven

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