a. Offense defined. A person is guilty of criminal coercion if, with purpose unlawfully to restrict another’s freedom of action to engage or refrain from engaging in conduct, he threatens to:
(1) Inflict bodily injury on anyone or commit any other offense;
(2) Accuse anyone of an offense;
(3) Expose any secret which would tend to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
(4) Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
(5) Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, except that such a threat shall not be deemed coercive when the restriction compelled is demanded in the course of negotiation for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor acts;
(6) Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
(7) Perform any other act which would not in itself substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to substantially harm another person with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs (2), (3), (4), (6) and (7) that the actor believed the accusation or secret to be true or the proposed official action justified and that his purpose was limited to compelling the other to behave in a way reasonably related to the circumstances which were the subject of the accusation, exposure or proposed official action, as by desisting from further misbehavior, making good a wrong done, or refraining from taking any action or responsibility for which the actor believes the other disqualified.
b. Grading. Criminal coercion is a crime of the fourth degree unless the threat is to commit a crime more serious than one of the fourth degree or the actor’s purpose is criminal, in which cases the offense is a crime of the third degree.
L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:13-5, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.
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