Organized crime and racketeering often are related activities. Both terms refer to criminal activities carried out on behalf of a criminal enterprise or association, or to further the goals of a group or organization. The organization's criminal activities might include a range of unlawful activities such as drug distribution, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and many other crimes.
State and federal laws seek to weaken or eliminate the ownership or control of criminal enterprises through racketeering charges. In federal court, a prosecutor can file charges through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). In California, racketeering laws are encoded in the California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act.
Organized crime laws punish criminal enterprises that have profited financially from criminal activities or engaged in criminal acts for the purpose of financial gain. The state prosecutor must show a "pattern of criminal profiteering activity" that includes at least two criminal incidents that are not isolated events. The prosecutor may show a pattern by tying together the participants, victims, or methods of carrying out criminal acts.
California Racketeering Laws At A Glance
For more specific information on California racketeering laws, see the chart below.
California Penal Code Section 186.2 (defining criminal profiteering activity)
California Penal Code Section 186.3 (allowing forfeiture of property or proceeds derived from criminal profiteering)
Organized crime laws focus on the financial profits gained by crime enterprises or associations through their participation in criminal activities. Accordingly, California state law seeks to punish and deter participants from racketeering and organized crime through forfeiture laws. During forfeiture, the state seizes control and possession of the defendant's property.
The prosecutor must show that the property interest, whether tangible or intangible, was:
- Acquired by the defendant through the established pattern of criminal acts intended for financial gain; or
- Received in exchange for property acquired through criminal profiteering activities (as happens with money laundering)
Forfeiture of property does not prevent the state of California from pursuing charges for the underlying crimes. A sentence of imprisonment or other punishments may still be possible if the state wins a conviction on a separate charge and the penalties will depend on the nature of the underlying charges.
Among other defenses, defendants can argue that their activities were not related to the crime enterprise's activities, operations, or goals.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Facing Racketeering Charges? Contact a Defense Attorney Today
California racketeering laws are intended to focus only on the profits and proceeds from criminal activities. This makes the prospect of forfeiture devastating when it comes to your livelihood and that of your loved ones. Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you to learn about your rights and to challenge the evidence against you.