Someone you know or work with did something illegal or deeply unethical, and you were either a witness or somehow wound up with evidence of what occurred. Most people in this situation will do the right thing and go to the police with the evidence they have or to provide their stories about what they witnessed. 

For other people, learning something bad about someone else may seem like an opportunity for profit. After all, people with resources will often gladly pay in order to avoid the repercussions of their own actions. 

Unfortunately, while you may view your attempt to make money off of a criminal or immoral act as a savvy form of negotiation, under the law in Virginia, it is actually blackmail, which is a form of extortion. That you could wind up facing felony charges if you ask for something from the perpetrator because of what you know.

Extortion involves threatening someone to get what you want

People should negotiate with one another for mutual benefit and profit, not under duress or threat. Many kinds of behavior may technically constitute extortion. Threatening someone with violence demanding money or other assets from them is one example of extortion. 

However, you do not have to threaten any kind of violence in order to engage in extortion. Instead, you simply need to force someone into behaving a certain way by the use of threats or coercion. Revealing a criminal act or immoral behavior may not constitute a threat of violence, but it is a threat nonetheless.

Anyone facing allegations of extortion or blackmail take very seriously, as the charges will be a Class 5 felony that can carry up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000. Defending against blackmail or extortion charges can help people avoid those consequences.