RICO Charges in Florida
Provided by HG.org
In addition to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges that a criminal defendant may face are potential state charges for similar conduct. Florida’s RICO statutes provide great latitude to prosecutors. These statutes give prosecutors the opportunity to pursue serious charges against individuals who may have only engaged in relatively minor acts.
Florida Statute 895.03
Florida Statute 895.03 criminalizes racketeering activity and related conspiracies. The prosecution can charge a defendant with this crime if he or she agrees to the objective of the conspiracy or he or she personally commits two predicate acts.
Basics of Florida RICO Act
Florida’s RICO Act encompasses the participation of an enterprise, evidenced by a pattern of racketeering. It is very similar to the federal RICO Act. To be convicted for a violation of the state RICO Act, the defendant must have been arrested because he or she was associated with an enterprise, he or she directly or indirectly was part of the enterprise as evidenced by participating in a minimum of two acts of racketeering activity and at least two of the acts of racketeering activities had commonalities. Potential commonalities include the same or similar victims, co-conspirators, methods of commission, intent, results or other characteristics that established a pattern.
Racketeering activities include the commission, attempt to commit, conspiracy to commit, solicitation to commit, coercion to commit or the intimidation of another individual to commit certain activities specified under Florida law. Racketeering charges may still result and be successful even when the prosecution cannot establish financial motivation that led to the activity.
A conviction for a RICO Act violation may be charged as a first degree felony. This offense carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in a Florida state prison.
Many RICO prosecutions involve wiretap evidence. These investigations may encompass wiretap evidence that has been accumulated over months or years. There may also be an enormous amount of financial records involved.
If the prosecution charges a person with RICO violations, it will likely receive a jury instruction for this crime. The jury instruction lays out certain elements and directions to the jury. The prosecution must establish each element of the crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Florida’s jury instruction describes two different ways for a person to be found guilty of a RICO violation. The first possibility is that the defendant joined a conspiracy and had the specific intent to engage in a minimum of two acts of racketeering as part of this conspiracy. Another possibility is that the defendant had the specific intent to participate in the enterprise’s affairs with the knowledge and intent that other members of the conspiracy would participate in a minimum of two acts of racketeering as part of a pattern.
Level of Criminal Activity
Ordinary criminal activity is not sufficient for a person to be convicted for a RICO offense. Instead, he or she can only be convicted of this offense if he or she commits or intends to commit specific activity that would meet all of the elements of the RICO statute. The central focus of a RICO charge is on the individual’s participation in an existing criminal enterprise and how his or her acts contribute to the sustainability of this enterprise.
A RICO conviction can result even if it is not alleged that the defendant agreed to perform all of the acts that are necessary to complete a specific crime. A person can be charged with conspiracy if he or she agrees to help complete only some meaningful portion of a specified crime. Ultimately, a defendant who only engages in ordinary criminal activity should not be charged with a conspiracy to commit racketeering activity.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for the prosecution to charge a person with RICO conspiracy is five years from the date of when the crime arose or the conduct ends. Additionally, at least two acts that formed the pattern of racketeering activity must have been completed within five years of each other.
Civil portions of the RICO statutes allow an investigative agency to begin civil forfeiture proceedings against defendants facing a RICO conviction. This agency can seize real property, personal property and intangible property.
Find a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer if Facing RICO Conspiracy Charges
If you are charged with a serious criminal offense such as violation of RICO laws, contact an experienced lawyer to discuss your case. He or she can help you protect your legal rights and explain the nature of the charges against you.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.