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Texas Racketeering / RICO Laws

Overview of Texas Racketeering / RICO Laws

Racketeering is a violation of federal laws and Texas state law. Racketeering is the criminal act of engaging in illegal business or acts run as part of organized crime. RICO (Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization) laws make it illegal for criminal organizations (i.e. the mafia, or other like-minded criminal organizations) to profit from other legitimate businesses (i.e. extortion) or to run their own legitimate businesses. The goal is to stop the flow of income to criminal organizations that ultimately use the profits to fund their illegal activities.

Example: A criminal organization forced local businesses on a particular street block to make weekly payments to them in exchange for "protection" from crimes against their business such as vandalism or robberies. The "protection" offered is really protection from members of their own organization who, if not paid, would commit crimes against these businesses and threaten their livelihoods.

Defenses to Racketeering / RICO Charges

Depending on the actual crime involved the defenses will vary and are specific to any given crime. Some additional defenses that may be available are:

  • The defendant was not a member of the criminal organization
  • The defendant did not have knowledge that his actions were furthering the agenda of a criminal organization

Penalties and Sentences

Texas Racketeering and RICO laws administer harsh penalties for violations. For any offense in which a person is engaging in organized criminal activity, the offense is classified as one charge higher than the most serious offense that was committed. For example, if the crime committed would at its most serious level be a "Class A" misdemeanor, it would be a state jail felony under this law due to the engagement in organized criminal activity. The only exception is that if the charge for the most serious offense would be a first degree felony, it will remain a first degree felony.

Example: If Bob is a member of a crime organization and committed a burglary of a home, he would be charged with a first degree felony since burglarizing a home normally carries a charge of second degree felony.

If the defendant conspired to commit a crime with a criminal organization, the charge will remain the same as the most serious charge offered for the crime the defendant conspired to commit. 

Example: As above, if Bob conspired to commit a burglary of a home, but never actually committed the burglary, the charge would be a second degree felony. Since the crime normally carries a charge of second degree felony if committed outside the context of a criminal organization, when placed in the context of a criminal organization, merely conspiring to commit this crime will carry the same charge.

Texas Racketeering / RICO Laws: Statute

Texas Organized Crime Statute (Penal Code, Title 11, Chapter 71, Section 71.02)

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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