Here is a scenario: You get punched by someone and he breaks your nose. You have the option of (a) going to the police and pressing charges (b) saying you won't press charges if he gives you x amount of money. Are you soliciting a bribe? Or are you merely mitigating potential lawyer fees and hassle that might result from going to court and obtaining a settlement? Neither person is in a position of power: e.g. public servant vs. person.

Now if the it is your duty to report and assault, can you still say to the person in the police station that you won't press charges if he gives you x? Same scenario, I'm just not sure if you have to report and assault.

  • In many jurisdictions this is the crime of extortion. If you want a specific citation you'll have to name the jurisdiction. You might be allowed to refrain from reporting the crime, and you might be allowed to request money for your suffering; it becomes extortion when you make it a quid pro quo. Sep 16, 2017 at 3:51
  • This is purely hypothetical so generally let's go with the US as the jurisdiction. I just don't get how this can be considered either bribery or extortion give that its the same process minus court for obtaining a settlement so to speak.
    – Alex
    Sep 16, 2017 at 4:09
  • Bribery is to pay someone in an official capacity to do something they would not have otherwise done, be it to ignore a policy/law or to expedite some action for which there is a (typically long) queue. That isn't happening here. It's extortion because a court may well find the other party not at fault, or even that you are. And in any event, it requires the court to be given legitimacy and transparency.
    – user4657
    Sep 16, 2017 at 11:22

1 Answer 1

  1. Does demanding money in a personal injury matter constitute bribery?
  2. Can a victim make a conditional police report?

                         Short Answers/Conclusion
  3. Demand for monies in pre-litigation scenario may be lawful or constitute criminal extortion depending on the facts and circumstances.
  4. A victim has no standing to make a conditional police report which relies on a civil settlement.


Scenario I - Punched(victim) demands for money from Puncher. No Extortion under (California) law.

  1. [In California], willfully touching another in a harmful manner and causing injury may be considered as Misdemeanor. Provisions in California law exists to remedy acts constituting Misdemeanors by a civil compromise (PC 1377-1379).

  2. In negotiating a civil compromise, the Puncher and the Punched could discuss the settlement amount, which would not constitute bribe/extortion. This settlement however occurs once a case is filed in the court, the Criminal Court.

  3. Some CA prosecutors have argued that certain Misdemeanor cases cannot be civilly compromised pointing to People v McWhinney (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d Supp 8. Interestingly,the Tischman court clarifies that certain misdemeanor’s can be compromised.( People v Tischman (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 174).(These were hit and run incidents which can be wobbler in California Misdemeanor/Felonly).

  4. If Puncher owns a property, then Punched could make a personal injury claim using the Home Owners insurance of Puncher. There could be a money demand thro properly drafted demand letters or orally.

Scenario II- Punched demands for money from Puncher. Criminal extortion.

  1. California Penal Code 519 can’t be clearer and California State Supreme Court opinion in Flatley v Mauro amplifies pre-litigation settlement demand as conforming to criminal extortion.

"...Extortion is the threat to accuse the victim of a crime or "expose, or impute to him..any deformity, disgrace or crime accompanied by demand for payment to prevent the accusation, exposure, or imputation from being made...."

  1. In the scenario presented, the Punched declaring ,"[Punched] wont press charges IFF paid." amounts to demand of monies, absent which Punched will expose Puncher by reporting the crime to the police.

  2. Another case sends a message loud and clear regarding settlements involving demand for monies combined with conditions of reporting to authorities if not paid- sending demands for settlement is ok but to combine the settlement with caveat of reporting to authorities if not paid is deemed as extortion. Attorney Reed Hamzeh demanded $75K from the opposing party. The settlement demand stated that should the other party not settle, he will report to the Attorney General, IRS and BBB if his client is not not paid.(Mendoza v Hamzeh)

Right to Report Crime to Police

  1. The right to report crime to the police is accorded under the US Constitution. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances is fundamental to "the very idea of a government republican in form." United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 552 (1875). See also United Mine Workers of Am.v. Illinois State Bar Ass’n, 389 U.S. 217, 222 (1967).

  2. The question is not whether one has the right to report crime but whether a duty is owed by the Punched to report to authorities. Yes, there is a duty owed and it this duty is embedded in California’s legislative intent.PC 679 in relevant part states:

"In recognition of the civil and moral duty of victims and witnesses of crime to fully and voluntarily cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies, and in further recognition of the continuing importance of this citizen cooperation to state and local law enforcement efforts and the general effectiveness and well-being of the criminal justice system of this state"

  1. The duty to report the crime is a civil and moral duty and is in the interest of an effective criminal justice system. So, if the Punched DOES NOT report the crime, he is neglecting his civil and moral duty.

Right to "Instruct" Police to not press charges

  1. The Law Enforcement(LE) documents reports of incidents, may investigate and refer the incident to the DA to prosecute. It is the District Attorney, not the Law Enforcement who "presses" charges.

  2. If the Punched (Victim) indicates to the police that the Punched does not wish to pursue charges, then lacking a victim/witness, there may not be a crime committed but indicating to the police that the Punched will not pursue charges UNLESS Puncher pays him, in itself is a crime and the LE may take necessary steps as the law permits. At the Police Station, the matter may get twisted into an attempt to file a false police report should the Puncher deny the incident and turns back on the Punched.

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