RICO law is connected with individuals who participated in the organized crime and are prosecuted and charged for their crimes. In 1970, Congress brought a RICO act to deal with Mafia groups. It has passed nearly 40 years from the inaction of that Act, and its influence has spread, from corrupted police to biker gangs. RICO law is not a mean to punish isolated and separate crimes, but it’s a way to punish all members of the organization who engage in some criminal and wrongful behavior.
RICO act took the basis of Title 18, section 1961 of the U.S. codes and this lists includes racketeering, extortion, homicide, kidnapping and witness tampering. Also, robbery and arson fall under the racketeering charges. Some types of financial crimes are also included, for example, wire fraud, money laundering, and securities violations.
By the RICO act, we have two type of penalties, civil and criminal. This means that prosecutors can make a claim, but also an independent individual. If we are talking about criminal prosecution, the jury plays an important role because it must be convinced that defendant is guilty. This is the highest type of punishment in the legal system of the United States, where charges for the crimes go up to 20 years in prison, but this can be expanded to a life sentence in prison. There is also a monetary fine included, for example, $250,000 or double the amount of money defendant earned from illegal activity.
RICO act is made to cripple every criminal organization, so it doesn’t only take away all illegally earned money and properties of the individual, but also it traces back its origin back to the organization. This act allows the government to confiscate all the defendant’s asset even before he is found to be guilty or even before the case goes to trial.
In the cases of the civil claims, the same procedure is applied, the jury must be convinced, but they have a lower burden of proof. Even though they include this mitigating circumstance, civil claims are rather expensive and last too long. But, if the plaintiff manages to recover the damage, his reward will be three times bigger than the damage.
Every RICO charge has to have specific elements, which involve that individual must be a member of Mafia or another undercover corporation or enterprise, and that has the certain pattern of behavior which involves racketeering. Sometimes it might be hard to prove RICO case because each of these elements must be satisfied.
In the cases where we have informal organizations, like street and motorcycle gangs, Supreme Court made a decision that each organization who has members and which purpose is considered to have a mutual goal and to achieve it, might be considered an enterprise.