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What Is Racketeering?


Racketeering is a very serious, but often misunderstood criminal charge. If you or your loved one is facing allegations of illicit racketeering, it is crucial that you know what you are being accused of, the penalties that you could face, and the potential defense strategies that are available. Here, our Orlando white collar criminal defense lawyer provides an overview of the key things to know about racketeering.

Racketeering: Defined

As defined by the Legal Information Institute, racketeering is “a set of illegal activities aimed at commercial profit” that typically involve “a coordinated effort by multiple people.” To be clear, the term encompasses a wide range of criminal acts—including things like bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering, and even obstruction of justice. The concept is often associated with criminal enterprises that use illegal methods to conduct their “business” operations.

Racketeering is a Crime in Florida (RICO Charge) 

Florida has a racketeering law. You may hear this law referred to as the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act (Florida Statutes § 895.03). It is largely modeled after a similar federal law that took effect in the 1970’s and was designed to give prosecutors tools to go after organized crime. To be convicted of a RICO charge in Florida, prosecutors generally need to prove that a defendant engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity”—meaning there were at least two acts of racketeering within a specific timeframe that was reasonably connected as to demonstrate ongoing illegal operations. A RICO charge is a first-degree felony in Florida. It can carry a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in state prison.

Racketeering May Be Charged as a Federal Crime 

It should be noted that racketeering can be charged as a federal crime under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). If there was interstate commerce involved in the racketeering activity, federal criminal charges may be pursued.

An Overview of Defenses Against Racketeering Charges 

How do you defend yourself against a racketeering charge? It depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Here is an overview of the potential defense options:

  • Lack of Evidence: You can assert that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity.
  • Withdrawal: You can demonstrate that you withdrew from the criminal enterprise and its activities before the crimes were committed could negate culpability.
  • Duress: You may claim that you were coerced into participating in illegal activities under threats of violence or other forms of intimidation.
  • No Criminal Intent: You may show that you did not have the intent to commit the crimes they are accused of, which is a crucial element in proving racketeering charges.
  • Plea Deal: In some cases, negotiating a plea deal with the prosecution is a common defense strategy—especially if the evidence is strong. 

Get Help From an Orlando, FL White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando white collar criminal defense attorney is an experienced advocate for clients. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with racketeering, we can help. Contact us today to set up your strictly private, no obligation case review. From our Orlando law office, we defend racketeering charges and white collar criminal cases throughout the area.

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