What Constitutes Coercion?
If someone says you are persuasive, you would probably take that as a compliment, right? The power of persuasion is often highly valued, especially in the legal field. But if someone says you are being coercive, this is less complimentary. In fact, coercion is a crime in Minnesota. Minnesota Statute § 609.27 defines the crime of coercion. Coercion is an oral or written threat that causes another to perform an act against their will. Minnesota Statute § 609.27 provides specific examples of what types of threats will constitute coercion. The following threats will constitute coercion: 1) a threat to unlawfully inflict bodily harm or hold in confinement; 2) a threat to damage property; 3) a threat to injure trade, business, profession, or calling; 4) a threat to expose a secret or deformity or publish a defamatory statement or otherwise to expose to disgrace or ridicule; 5) whether true or false, a threat to make or cause a criminal charge to be made; or 6) a threat to disseminate private sexual images. If you make any of the aforementioned threats, and those threats cause an individual to do something against their will, you will be guilty of coercion.
If you are found guilty of coercion, your sentence will depend on what gain and/or loss occurred due to the coercion. When determining the value of the gain/loss for sentencing, evidence beyond mere speculation is required. Dorry v. State, A08-2010, 2009 WL 2498479 (Minn. App. Aug. 18, 2009). The State is required to bring forth evidence that would reasonably support their determination of damages. Id. If the gain/loss caused by the threat is valued at less than $300.00, an individual will be guilty of a misdemeanor. If the gain/loss caused by the threat is valued between $300.00 and $2,500.00, a finding of guilt could result in a $10,000.00 fine and up to 5 years in prison. The most serious punishment occurs if the gain/loss is over $2,500.00, this will result in up to a $20,000.00 fine and 10 years in prison.
In order to avoid criminal charges, stick to persuasion and avoid coercion. If this advice is coming to you too late, reach out to our office to get in contact with an attorney.