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With blackmail , someone tries to unlawfully enrich himself or a third party through violence or by threatening a sensitive evil at the expense of another. In this respect, blackmail is to be distinguished from coercion , which does not presuppose any intention to enrich or damage property. The act is considered unlawful if the purpose-means relationship between the act of coercion, i.e. the violence or threat and the intended purpose of coercion, is to be viewed as reprehensible.

Legal situation in Germany

The extortion from a legal perspective according to § 253 StGB presupposes, in addition to the coercion, a financial disadvantage caused by it for the coerced or a third party. Those who are forced to do so require real freedom of choice as to whether they accept the perpetrator's act or cause the property damage by means of (self) harm.

When it comes to illegality , a distinction must be made between:

  • On the one hand, according to Section 253 (2) of the Criminal Code, the act of coercion for the intended purpose (enrichment) must be reprehensible and thus illegal (as in Section 240 (2) of the Criminal Code). Without this criterion z. B. the enforcement of loan claims of the obligee against a debtor with the threat of judicial enforcement is punishable.
  • On the other hand, the desired enrichment must itself be illegal. Enrichment is illegal if it is objectively in conflict with the property regime. The enforcement of a claim that is due and free of objection with coercive means is not unlawful within the meaning of the provision. The distinction between piece and class guilt is irrelevant. Here it is also important how a monetary debt is legally classified.

The relationship to other property offenses is often problematic , especially fraud , in which - instead of coercion - deception causes the disposal of property and the damage.

In certain cases it is very doubtful whether the disposition of property sought (or achieved) with the threat of publication of dishonorable but not prohibited information constitutes a factual blackmail, if the information concerning the commercial sphere is true and a question affecting the public affect. See specifically the so-called chantage (threat of revelations for the purpose of blackmail).

The victim of blackmail can be privileged under procedural law if he is blackmailed with the threat of reporting a crime . The public prosecutor's office can, if the seriousness of the act does not conflict with it, refrain from prosecution according to § 154c StPO .

The armed robbery ( § 255 of the Criminal Code) is the qualified by means of coercion (violence against a person or threat of danger to life and limb) made extortion. It represents a qualification for blackmail.

A kidnapping becomes extortionate kidnapping i. S. v. Section 239a of the Criminal Code , if the respective offender has a pecuniary advantage , e.g. B. demands a ransom for the kidnapped person (" extortionate kidnapping ").

Wording of § 253 StGB

(1) Anyone who unlawfully coerces a person with violence or threats with a sensitive evil to act , toleration or omission and thereby harms the property of the coerced or someone else in order to unjustly enrich himself or a third party, is sentenced to imprisonment up to five years or a fine.

(2) The act is unlawful if the use of force or the threat of evil for the intended purpose is to be regarded as reprehensible.

(3) The attempt is punishable.

(4) In particularly serious cases, the penalty is imprisonment for no less than one year. A particularly serious case is usually when the perpetrator acts commercially or as a member of a gang that has joined forces to continue extortion.

Emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail takes place when a blackmailer threatens a blackmailer with credible feelings of guilt (example: "If you do that, I'll jump off the bridge!"). The psychological psychotherapist Doris Wolf describes techniques and strategies of emotional blackmail and describes feelings of guilt as superfluous and harmful.

See also

  • Sycophant - people were called in ancient Athens who made a business out of threatening other (mostly wealthy) citizens with blackmailing slander


  • Karl Hagel: Robbery and extortion under German and English law and from a comparative law perspective . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1979, ISBN 3-11-008103-2
  • Car Hartmann: The doctrine of blackmail . Master's thesis, Dorpat 1859, hdl: 10062/473
  • Ernst Sommer : extortionate because of aberration . Vienna 1949
  • Otto Schwarz (start), Thomas Fischer (Hrsg.): Criminal code and subsidiary laws. 59th edition. Beck Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-60892-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Blackmail  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fischer: Criminal Code and subsidiary laws. 2012, p. 1738.
  2. Emotional Blackmail - Manipulation through feelings of guilt . Partnership- Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  3. Doris Wolf: Overcoming self-reproaches and feelings of guilt . Paperback Pal Verlag, 2003.