In Florida, the law takes a strict stance against criminal activities that are organized and continually perpetrated to achieve illegal financial gains. This is especially true when it comes to racketeering. Inspired by the federal RICO Act, Florida’s Racketeering laws have been designed to ensure that criminal enterprises, and those involved in them, are brought to justice.
What is Racketeering in Florida?
When most people hear the term ‘racketeering,’ they might think of old-timey gangsters and mob bosses. In reality, the term, as per Florida’s statutes, refers to the act of committing, attempting to commit, or even conspiring to commit a range of crimes as defined under specific sections of the Florida Statutes. It also covers actions defined as “racketeering activity” under the federal RICO Act.
Diving Deeper into Florida’s RICO Laws
Florida’s Racketeering laws, outlined under Florida Statutes Title XLVI. § 895.03, are comprehensive. At its core, the Florida RICO Act prohibits:
Using ill-gotten gains: Any investment or use of profits that come directly or indirectly from racketeering activities or the collection of illegal debts, especially if used to purchase property or start a business, is unlawful. This assumes the person acquiring such proceeds does so with a “criminal intent.”
Gaining control through racketeering: Acquiring or maintaining any kind of interest or control over an enterprise or property using funds or influence gained through racketeering activities is illegal.
Employment in a criminal enterprise: Being employed by, or associated with, any organization that conducts its business through racketeering activities or by collecting unlawful debts is a violation of this Act.
Conspiracy: Even an attempt or conspiracy to violate any of the above provisions can lead to charges under Florida’s RICO laws.
Defining a “Pattern of Racketeering”
For someone to be charged under the RICO laws, there needs to be a clear “pattern of racketeering.” This means at least two incidents of such conduct that share similar intents, results, victims, or methods and are not isolated incidents. Additionally, one of these incidents must have occurred after October 1, 1977, and the last such incident should be within five years of a prior racketeering conduct.
Consequences of Racketeering Charges
Being convicted under Florida’s RICO laws can lead to severe penalties:
It’s classified as a 1st-degree felony.
Penalties can include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
In certain situations, the courts may impose a fine amounting to treble damages.
Building a Defense Against Racketeering Charges
The stakes are undoubtedly high. Therefore, anyone facing these charges must mount a vigorous defense. Common defenses include a lack of knowledge, disputing the existence of a “pattern of racketeering activity,” or proving withdrawal from the criminal enterprise.
Conclusion: Why Engaging a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney is Vital
RICO and racketeering charges are complex and come with potentially life-altering consequences. If you or a loved one faces such charges, engaging an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney is not just advisable—it’s essential. They can guide you through the intricacies of Florida’s racketeering laws, ensure your rights are protected, and craft a robust defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances. Don’t leave your future to chance; secure experienced legal representation.