Since the ’70s the government has been applying the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to ever-expanding situations. Originally created to give prosecutors the ability to battle mafia organizations, it is now being used to a variety of circumstances.
These days, it is commonly used as an enhancement to pressure defendants into plea bargaining into lesser charges in exchange for a guilty plea. Once charged with RICO it can be a tremendous pressure that requires a solid defense to escape.
What is RICO?
This U.S. federal law was created in the 1970s. RICO covers 27 federal crimes and eight state crimes for a total of 35 charges. With RICO charges often comes seizure of assets, which can make it difficult to pay for proper legal defense.
What is racketeering?
The term racketeering is used to refer to the act of conducting a business that is funded through illegal activity, usually some form of extortion. Racketeering can be prosecuted on the state or federal level.
What must the government prove for RICO charges to stick?
According to Investopedia, five things must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to find someone guilty of RICO charges:
- Existence: The government must prove that a criminal enterprise exists.
- Interstate: It must be proven that the criminal organization conducted business across state lines, or affected interstate commerce.
- Associations: The case must prove that the individual being charged was involved with a criminal enterprise.
- Racketeering: It must be proven that the accused was actively involved in rackets.
- 2 strikes: The government must prove that the individual had committed a minimum of two acts of racketeering.
The Act is in place so that government prosecutors can take down a whole organization instead of going after individual members of a criminal enterprise.
If facing RICO or racketeering charges, it is usually beneficial to have a legal advocate that is experienced in developing a strong criminal defense against state and federal charges.