Criminal Defense Lawyer
While criminal law is obviously concerned about all crime, crimes committed by groups of people were thought to represent a particularly great danger. The concern is that multiple people working in tandem can do more harm than if they acted alone. In order to deal with this problem, the law has long recognized the crime of conspiracy, which is the crime of agreeing to commit a crime. However, conspiracy can be difficult to prove in some instances, particularly in cases where there are large, sophisticated criminal organizations where high-ranking members can achieve plausible deniability. In order to respond to these organizations, Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
What RICO Prohibits
RICO makes it a criminal act for an organization to engage in a “pattern of racketeering activity.” That means three things have to happen in order to qualify as a violation of RICO. First, there has to be some sort “organization.” Under the law, this can be any ongoing association of people, whether formal or informal. For instance, a company or a street gang could both qualify. Second, the organization must perform racketeering activity. The statute has an extensive list of different crimes that qualify as racketeering activity. Third, there must be a pattern of such activity, meaning that the organization has engaged in at least two of the specified crimes within 10 years of each other. If all of these conditions are met, then the people involved in the organization may be in danger of facing RICO charges.
The Purpose of RICO
RICO was enacted in 1970 in order to deal with the growing problem of organized crime, which was often too sophisticated and complex for standard conspiracy law to handle. However, in order to be effective against organized crime, Congress had to ensure that RICO was a flexible and expansive statute. This has made RICO into a fixture of federal criminal prosecutions because it can be used to pursue charges against any formal or informal organization. This means that companies engaged in white-collar crime and major gangs dealing in drugs or committing other crimes can end up being prosecuted under the same law.
This flexibility has also created some controversy surrounding RICO. RICO can be used to charge people involved in the criminal organization with the crimes of another person done on behalf of that organization. This means that someone who plays a minor role in a crime can end up facing severely outsized penalties based on the actions of other members of the RICO organization.
Contact a Law Firm Today
RICO charges can lead to decades in prison. If you are currently facing charges for RICO violations or some other crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer Bloomington, IL trusts to learn more about what options you have. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can begin building an effective defense against these charges.
Thanks to Pioletti & Pioletti for their insight into criminal defense and RICO.