When Does Your Desire for Revenge Become Blackmail


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Often, after a bad breakup, people react badly and may engage in behavior that is not in their best interests. They may attempt to “seek revenge” against the ex they believe has caused them pain and/or harm. This is especially prevalent when you or your ex believes that there is a debt owed. The wronged party may try to use personal information about the other party to illicit the money or reciprocity for their perceived wrong. It is important to realize that this can be classified as blackmail.

Recently, reality shows, news headlines and “court shows” on television have been rife with instances of couples blackmailing one another to achieve their objectives. Despite the perceived acceptance of this behavior, resorting to these tactics can result in criminal charges.

When you have been involved with another person in an intimate relationship, you are often privy to current or past activities by your partner that they would not want to come to public light. If this person’s activities are criminal in nature, it is advisable that you speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable in that area of law, least you be charged with a criminal offense, such as collaboration or harboring a criminal. However, if their confidence has simply informed you of acts that could be embarrassing to your partner, yet not criminal, don’t view this as a weapon to use after break-up.

Blackmail is the criminal act of threatening to reveal substantially true information about a person to the public, their family, spouse, or associates - which may be damaging, disgraceful, injurious, embarrassing, or even incriminating - unless a demand is met, such as money, other goods, or even their signature on a document that acknowledges a debt. This information is usually of an embarrassing, socially damaging, and/or incriminating nature. Even when the information is substantially true, although the act of revealing the information may not be criminal in its own right and is therefore not considered defamatory; the very act of making the demand in exchange for withholding the information, is often considered a crime. Basically, blackmail is compelling someone to act against their will.

The laws vary from state to state, but blackmail is often considered a form of extortion. Although some laws distinguish between blackmail and extortion, others do not. Blackmail generally refers only to threats of non-violent action, such as revealing compromising photographs; while extortion relies on more active threats, such as physical harm. Blackmail is occasionally singled out for separate statutory treatment. Extortion is typically charged as a felony and since blackmail is often considered a form of extortion, if you are convicted of this crime, you may face severe penalties.

Rather than engage in activities which could be considered a crime, and result in severe punishment, it is far more advisable to consult with an attorney that can guide you through the processes necessary to obtain a legal, equitable outcome for your situation. If, however, you have already engaged in activities that may be considered blackmail, you should consider consulting with a criminal attorney who can advise you of your rights.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.