it's NOT blackmail, but is it illegal?

Say that I walk in on someone, (boss, neighbor, family member) and catch them in a very compromising position. Doing something that if it were known would ruin their lives and/or get them in serious legal trouble. Something so terrible (in their eyes) that they would do anything to keep it secret.

Now if I ask for money or whatever to keep it under my hat, I have committed blackmail, a felony just about everywhere I think.

What if I don’t say a word and really have no plans to tell anyone. I’d just as soon back out of the room and pretend I never saw a thing.

But the culprit(s) see me, panic and proceed to go about paying off my house, car, truck, jetski, buying me a new lawn tractor, whatever. Have I committed any crime by accepting these “favors” even though I never said a word to them or anyone else about what I witnessed?

I’m in North Carolina (and of course this would NEVER happen to me)

If there’s no reference on anyone’s part to you keeping a secret in exchange, I don’t see how.

Hard to imagine accepting this sort of unsolicited ‘bribe’ could be a crime, but there might be tax implications. Capital gains, or whatever it is you pay on game show winnings?

I imagine this type of situation might happen more often than we’d like to think.


they did not offer to let you join in the fun?

Just don’t offer to sell a script detailing what you saw as a movie of the week. That didn’t work out to well for one of David Letterman’s producers.

I’d imagine that, when the “victim” gets tired of paying, they will “remember” you blackmailing them, even if you didn’t. And what proof do you have that you didn’t make an offhand remark?


This vaguely sounds like an adult version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.

What proof do you need? It’s not the defendant’s responsibility to disprove a charge.

True, I suppose…


So, now imgaine that the wronged party (wife, husband, employer, etc.) is suing for divorce or whatever, and you receive a subpoena to testify. Will you feel free to be honest, or might you feel coerced into a memory failure? Do you think that if the opposing attorney pulled your financial records you might go down for perjury?

The answer, I think, is “not yet.” But clearly the situation is fraught. \BiscuitVoice Fraught, I tell you. /biscuitvoice

If you’re sitting there with a paid off mortgage and a brand spanking new lawn tractor given to you by someone who has never previously had reason to give you goodies, your innocence may not be apparent to a jury of your peers.

Anyway, here’s a corollary question that occurred to me.

Suppose you’re appalled at whatever secret you’ve discovered and wish no part of the person giving you the gifts. But that person refuses to stop. You could certainly stop the flow of gratuities if you told the secret, but you don’t want to ruin that person’s life, just make them go away. If you convey to this person, “Stop giving me stuff or I’ll reveal your horrible secret”, is * that * blackmail?

I would think in this case you’d want a cease and desist letter from a lawyer. I’m not sure exactly what it would need to say, if it should reference the reason (you assume) the items are being given to you, if it should bring up past gifts, if you should return past gifts etc. But that would be my course of action. Seems like a catch 22.
Maybe it would simply mention that you assume all the gifts are hush money for seeing the other person [doing something bad], but since it was never discussed you aren’t certain. You have no intention of telling anyone and never had any intention. Don’t care, none of your business etc… Here’s your stuff, don’t give me any more. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

How does someone pay off your mortgage or put money in your account without you having the ability to tell the bank “No”? I assume this is possible but I don’t know.

Like I said, this would NEVER happen to me, but if subpoenaed (sp?) I would tell the truth; answer the questions I was asked.

As far as my financial records, I didn’t ask or demand any compensation from any one and they could never prove that I did. I would also state, for the record, that I am not too stupid to graciously accept a gift. :D:D:D:D:D:D

And you’re right, the situation IS fraught! (who or what is BiscuitVoice?)

anecdote is not data here… I am buying an equipment trailer from a friend that is going bankrupt. The finance company will NOT write a new loan so Jeff just gave me the account number and their telephone number. I call, make a payment over the phone and they gleefully accept every dime I send them. (Maybe it helps that I’m paying WAY over the amount that is due?)

Now, Jeff gave me his account number, I don’t know if a bank or other lending institution would accept any monies from someone who walked in off the street, with just a name and no account number but my hunch says they will. Think about it, they get their money, why should they care where it comes from?
Makes sense but who expects sense from a bank lately? :dubious:

Ah, it’s a hypothetical. Assume solid gold jewel encrusted falcons appearing in the mail if you must. But I would think paying off a mortgage would be one of the easier things to do assuming you can find the account number. Just call up the bank, ask for the pay off amount and mail them a check. I bet they’re not fussy about whose name is on the check. (When I’ve refinanced my house, I never wrote a big check to my old bank – I’m assuming that the lawyers did that at some point.)

Depending on the relevant jurisdiction’s laws, I think they might indeed be fussy.

One potential problem is possible infringement of data protection and privacy laws. Another set of problems might be caused by the possible establishment of a legal relationship between the mortgagee and the person who was actually paying the mortgage. And yet another problem might be that the mortgagee would want to be satisfied that third-party payments weren’t being made to cover up financial difficulties for the mortgagor.

On the parallel scenario of a third party trying to pay off someone else’s rent:

I used to work in the property management sector in England, and we were very wary of accepting third-party payments, both because doing so might establish an unintended legal relationship between our client and the payor, and again because it might be being used to hide the tenant’s financial difficulties.

And relevant to both the payment of rent and of a mortgage: how does the payee know that the person making the payments isn’t doing so as the result of a financial agreement, such as a loan…? I can’t see any mortgagee being terribly chuffed about that going on!

But as I said in my other post, all this will depend on the relevant jurisdiction’s laws.

IANAL, but it seems to me that that is only true in theory. Judges and juries are human, and I seem to recall that the criminal law standard is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. If your situation (getting all these “gifts” without a peep from you to the compromised person in question about telling on him) is too far outside what would seem to be what a reasonable person would do, I think yes you as the defendant would have to do something to get things back below “a reasonable doubt”.