Theft by Extortion
Imagine a typical would-be customer walking into your business. This person steps up to your counter and demands something for free and goes even further. The person then goes after your reputation by threatening to leave a scathing online review if the person does not get something for free.
This act of theft by extortion is occurring with more and more frequency in Mesa and in businesses throughout Arizona.
The Mesa Chamber did something about it.
THE CHAMBER JUMPS INTO ACTION
When Mesa Chamber member Nothing Bundt Cakes brought the issue to our attention, the chamber jumped into action and got to work on legislation to fix the problem.
Arizona laws need modernizing every so often. In doing its research for a bill, the Mesa chamber tackled some antiquated theft by extortion statutes adding language about threats on social media platforms. Complicating things was a 1995 court ruling that left businesses wide open for threatens on their reputations.
The Mesa Chamber approached Senator Vince Leach to sponsor SB 1001, a bill that would prevent theft by extortion and add social media reviews to the statute.
In technical SB 1001 states that a person commits theft by extortion by knowingly obtaining or seeking to obtain property or services by means of threat to expose a secret or an asserted fact in the future through a social media message or in any other manner, unless the threat is based on a plausible claim of right to the property or services obtained or sought to be obtained if the bill passes.
The bill had to be written in a way that preserves the right to free speech but protects a business from empty threats against its reputation.
For example, a person purchases a new car, drives it off the lot, and the air conditioner fails. The new car owner would still have the right under SB 1001 to demand the air conditioner be fixed for free.
SB 1001 passed the Senate with no issues. However, it needed an amendment in the House of Representatives. The amendment was put on and the bill was passed. The Senate concurred with amendment and passed the bill in May. Your Mesa legislators and how they voted on SB 1001 are as follows:
Representative John Fillmore (R – LD 16) YES
Representative Jaqueline Parker (R – LD 16) YES
Senator Kelly Townsend (R – LD 16) YES
Representative Mitzi Epstein (D – LD 18) NO
Representative Jennifer Jermaine (D – LD 18) NO
Senator Sean Bowie (D – LD 18) YES
Representative Rusty Bowers (R – LD 25) YES
Representative Michelle Udall (R – LD 25) YES
Senator Tyler Pace (R – LD 25) YES
Representative Melody Hernandez (D – LD 26) NO
Representative Athena Salman (D – LD 26) ABSENT THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Senator Juan Mendez (D – LD 26) ABSENT THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION
GOVERNOR SIGNS IT
On May 27th, Governor Ducey signed into law SB 1001 making it a class 4 felony to commit theft by extortion against a business in Arizona. Technically, the law goes into effect 90 days after the legislative session, which is September 24th. However, the law already has had a positive impact on the business community.
Thanks to the work of the members of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, businesses throughout Arizona have greater protections against theft by extortion.