Amendments to Penal Code section 518 Makes Obtaining Certain Sexual Conduct or Images Illegal

On October 5, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown approved SB-500.[1] SB-500 took effect on January 1, 2021 and made significant changes to the crime of extortion under Penal Code section 518.

Prior to the enactment of Penal Code section 518, the crime of extortion was defined as “the obtaining of property from another, with his or her consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.”

SB-500 now includes within the definition of extortion the obtaining of “consideration” by force, fear, or under color of official right. “Consideration” under Penal Code section 518 is now defined as anything of value, including specific enumerated sexual acts or sexual images.

What this means is that if a person obtains specified sexual acts or images from another, with that person’s consent, induced by the use of force, fear, or under color of official light, they can be charged and potentially convicted of felony extortion.

According to subdivision (b) of Penal Code section 518, “sexual conduct” may include any of the following acts: (1) sexual intercourse, (2) penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object, (3) masturbation (under certain circumstances), (4) sadomasochistic abuse (under certain circumstances), (5) exhibition of the genitals or rectal areas (under certain circumstances) and (6) defecation or urination (under certain circumstances).

Penal Code section 518 further defines what images of body parts are included within the scope of the new amendment. Images depicting the following body parts are considered as “consideration” under SB-500 and may lead to criminal prosecution: (1) any portion of the genitals, (2) the anus, (3) in the case of females, any portion of the breasts below the top of the areola that is either uncovered or clearly visible through clothing.

Understanding the outlawed behavior under Penal Code section 518 is important in this internet based day; especially given that people actively use online applications such as Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder and Bumble.

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