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Understanding the RICO Act

Drug crimes can be simple and minor, but they also have the ability to be major and complex. When one thinks of a drug charge, he or she might be thinking of a minor possession charge that stemmed from a traffic stop. While this occurs in Iowa and elsewhere, drug crimes can derive from the expansive and organized operation of the drug trade. Because drug trade influences interstate and international commerce, it could result in serious charges if an individual is accused of being a part of this type of organized crime.

The RICO act, which stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organized Act, was passed by congress as a means to eradicate organized crime in the nation. A RICO charge occurs when a person is employed by or associated with an enterprise that is engaged in activities that impact interstate or foreign commerce. This charge occurs when his or her conduct, directly or indirectly, participates in the enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or the unlawful collection of debt.

When charged with such an offense, the government has five elements to prove. First, they must prove that the enterprise existed. Next, they must show that this enterprise affected interstate commerce. Third, the government must prove that the defendant was associated with or employed by the enterprise. Fourth, the defendant must be engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. Finally, it must be proven that the defendant conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise in at least two acts of racketeering activities.

When facing such a charge, it is likely that individuals involved are facing multiple charges as it related to organized crime. Thus, it is possible to face various drug charges in addition to a RICO charge. This can be a complex matter; however, it should be noted that a RICO charge can be challenging for prosecutors to prove. Therefore, taking a strong and aggressive stance when initiating a defense could help the accused clear his or her name or avoid harsh penalties.

Source: Justice.gov, "RICO Charges," accessed March 5, 2018

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