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When facing federal racketeering charges, it can be tough to plan your next steps. This is a very broad category of crimes that all have very significant penalties. To get the best possible outcome for your case, you’ll need a qualified and experienced federal racketeering defense attorney. If you or a loved one has been charged with some form of racketeering or conspiracy, here is what you need to know.
Initially, racketeering was used to refer to organized crime. It involved things like mob bosses coercing local businesses into paying a “protection” fee. The term Racketeering describes a pattern of criminal activity where money is extorted from victims by force, threat, or intimidation. Federal racketeering laws are designed to regulate illegal businesses, fraudulent schemes, criminal enterprises, and organized crime operations.
Since racketeering is such a broad term, all sorts of crimes end up falling under the category of racketeering. Federal law defines 35 separate criminal acts as potential racketeering. To name just a few crimes that racketeering charges might involve are:
Racketeering is technically a type of criminal charge that can be committed on either the state or the federal level. Due to the nature of the crime, however, the majority of racketeering cases involve people breaking federal laws or people committing criminal offenses in multiple states. Therefore, they typically end up being charged federally. This means you end up being tried in a federal court and may face more serious consequences if convicted.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a federal law that is filed in most racketeering cases. Also referred to as 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968, this law was originally created in 1970 as part of a huge government push to eliminate organized crime. However, due to its wide scope, RICO is now used to prosecute private individuals as well.
RICO lists the 35 types of racketeering which range from white-collar crimes to violent crimes. Anyone who is suspected of being involved in two or more RICO offenses within a 10-year period can be charged with federal racketeering. This law is somewhat unique because it does not require you to commit the acts yourself. Just being tangentially involved in the acts is likely enough to charge you under a RICO statute. Anyone who commits, attempts to commit, or conspires to commit two or more RICO offenses will face RICO charges.
It is possible for someone to face federal charges without being involved in a RICO case since federal racketeering is technically separate from RICO itself. However, due to the nature of the involved crimes, it can be hard to commit one without committing others. So if you’re suspected of something like embezzlement, you might also be charged with wire fraud. This would end up making your case a RICO case.
In any racketeering case, there is a huge focus on whether or not the charges are RICO or not. This is because people convicted under the RICO Act face very severe penalties. The U.S. Sentencing Commission originally set up mandatory guidelines on sentencing. These guidelines carry prison sentences that are far lengthier than those typically handed down at the state level. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled these guidelines had to be advisory, not mandatory, in 2005, in the landmark case of United States v. Booker. Many federal district court judges throughout the country still treat the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines as mandatory.
If convicted of violating the RICO Act, you can face imprisonment of up to 20 years in federal prison. You can also be fined up to $25,000 for each RICO violation, which quickly adds up to staggering amounts of money in fines.
Furthermore, you have to forfeit any property or assets that were associated with the criminal activity. This can result in you and your family losing things like homes, property, and other, non-criminal businesses, if the government can prove that they were obtained or derived from illegal proceeds. The RICO act also lets any victims sue the guilty defendant in civil court for three times the amount of actual damages they faced.
Altogether, a RICO conviction can result in lengthy prison time and massive amounts of fines. Keep in mind that you can also face further penalties for each individual crime committed. RICO can be used to extend the penalties for a minor crime, but it cannot be used to reduce penalties for a major crime.
If you are charged with RICO racketeering, the prosecution has to prove that you either conspired to or committed two or more RICO offenses. No matter how much evidence they appear to have, there are several different federal racketeering defense options. Depending on the case, your RICO defense attorney may recommend one or more of these defenses.
If possible, this is often one of the best defenses. Being able to show you are not actually guilty of the allegations can help you get acquitted at trial. To prove you are not guilty, your attorney might present an alibi on your behalf, show why you could not commit the crime, or show that someone else committed the crime.
A key part of being tried under RICO is the idea that the crimes are related to organized business. If they are not related to organized business, they are not racketeering and therefore do not count as a RICO offense. This means that a potential defense can simply be discussing the context of the crime.
For example, kidnapping someone to intimidate their business associates would be racketeering while kidnapping your child during a custody dispute would just be standard kidnapping. If your defense attorney can show your crimes do not actually count as racketeering, you might be able to avoid the heavier penalties of RICO charges.
In any criminal case, the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is a presumption enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. If there is not enough proof to show that you committed RICO crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, a jury must find you not guilty. There are many ways that your lawyer might cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence.
For example, if their case hinges on an eyewitness claiming you were at a crime, your lawyer could show that the witness’s description actually matches multiple people who could’ve been at the crime as well. Anything that makes the jury doubt that you were able to commit the crime can help. Sometimes, the government really believes in their case, and in the guilt of an accused, but simply has insufficient evidence to prove it. Reasonable doubt is a defense unto itself. It is the highest-burden in our justice system. If the government can’t prove it, then a defendant is not guilty–even if they really are.
United States Code requires law enforcement officers to respect your rights throughout the entire evidence gathering process. If any evidence was gained through illegal searches or other unethical means, it may be thrown out or suppressed. If your lawyer or defense team learns that your rights were violated during the collection of key evidence, they may be able to get this evidence removed from your case. If the government cannot prove their case without the suppressed evidence, they would likely need to dismiss.
If you or someone you care about is facing RICO charges, it is absolutely essential to have a good RICO defense attorney on your side. Since these cases involve federal law and some fairly complex criminal codes, it’s not something a new criminal defense attorney ought to take on. Similarly, a misdemeanor lawyer, or a lawyer that does not have a lot of in-court experience, ought not take on a serious case with complex legal issues. Instead, you need someone with professional, practical experience to handle this specific type of case.
There are all sorts of benefits to working with a lawyer who specifically handles racketeering cases. With our legal expertise and years of experience, the Law Offices of David Silldorf will help you fight to defend your case as effectively as possible.
Furthermore, having a RICO defense attorney can assist you with navigating the plea deal structure. Since RICO cases are so complex, the prosecution team will often try to create a plea deal to avoid having to take the case to court. A lawyer who has experienced this situation before can help you decide if a plea is in your best interest or negotiate the best outcome for you.
When you need a talented San Diego RICO defense lawyer, David Silldorf Law is here to help. With over 40 years of combined experience, we have the knowledge needed to handle these complex federal cases. Our team prides themselves on their focus and attention to detail. We assist with a variety of cases and specialize in federal criminal law.
When you choose to work with us, you can be confident that we will research your case thoroughly and provide a custom solution for your situation. If you or a loved one is dealing with RICO charges, do not delay in getting assistance. Call (619) 326-9093 to schedule your free consultation today.
Federal racketeering laws are complicated, and the consequences for RICO crimes can be severe. If you are arrested for a federal crime in San Diego, David Silldorf is ready to provide you with an experienced defense.
David Silldorf has been designated by the Federal U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California as an experienced criminal practitioner qualified to handle appointments arising under the Criminal Justice Act.
The firm’s proximity to the international border has a strong influence on David’s caseload. He regularly represents individuals charged with drug trafficking and alien smuggling offenses and drug-related federal conspiracy cases, and other offenses involving racketeering.
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