Are you facing criminal racketeering charges in Phoenix, Arizona? It’s important to understand that this is a serious offense that can carry harsh penalties. The state will not hesitate to begin gathering evidence and building its case against you. So, it’s critical to make sure that you do not hesitate to contact the experienced Phoenix RICO defense lawyers at the Orent Law Offices.
We have decades of experience representing the people of Phoenix against serious criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested or charged with racketeering charges, we’ll fight to protect you and your future. Your first consultation is free, so give our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers a call today to learn more.
Under Arizona law, it is unlawful to use a business or other organization of people to perform criminal acts. If you are caught, you could face federal RICO charges in addition to penalties at the state level.
Specifically, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) and the equivalent Arizona racketeering statutes define the “illegal control of an enterprise” as when a person, through racketeering or its proceeds, acquires, maintains, by investment or otherwise, control of any enterprise.
With these laws in mind, let’s first take a look at what an “enterprise” is under state law. Note that the definition is broad, and includes corporations, partnerships, associations, labor unions, legal entities, or other groups of people that come together for a purpose.
It might be helpful to think of an enterprise as any situation where a leader organizes and orders lower-level members to commit crimes.
It’s important to keep in mind that leaders of these criminal enterprises are not the only individuals that can be convicted. In fact, the law applies to anyone who participates either directly or indirectly in the enterprise, or otherwise conducts their affairs through racketeering, and possesses knowledge of racketeering activities. This would include employees of the business, provided they knew of the crimes being committed.
Next, let’s examine how the law defines racketeering. Essentially, racketeering refers to any crime committed for financial gain. This would include what we commonly think of as “white collar crimes,” such as:
But, racketeering also includes so-called “blue collar crimes” committed for financial gain, such as:
So, a wide range of criminal behaviors can land you in a great deal of trouble.
Now, if you are arrested for the crime of conducting or controlling a business enterprise for racketeering, you could be charged with a class 3 felony. This comes with a penalty of between 2 years and 8.75 years behind bars.
However, the punishment is more severe if you used a minor in the commission of the crime. An example would be if you hired someone under 18 to engage in any of the offenses listed above. In this case, you could be charged with a class 2 felony. This comes with a penalty of between 3 years and 12.5 years behind bars. In addition, you would not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence.
As you can see, there is a wide range in sentencing terms for these crimes. Generally, the length of your sentence is based on whether or not you have any prior convictions. The more offenses on your record, the longer the prison term.
Further, you are more likely to have a longer period of incarceration if the racketeering was committed while you were on probation or in prison. Because of this variation, it can be helpful to speak with your attorney about how your case may be affected if any of these conditions apply.
It’s important to note that racketeering is rarely a stand-alone crime. Instead, there are usually underlying charges, such as robbery or prostitution, that are part of the criminal enterprise. Note that the law considers these to be separate violations. This means that you can be charged not only with racketeering but also one or more of these “predicate” offenses as well.
Because of this, racketeering charges have potentially serious consequences and can be challenging to defend. For example, you may receive only a 2-year sentence for the crime of racketeering, however, if the underlying charge was homicide, this could significantly increase your incarceration period. In fact, you could face an additional 10 years or more, and perhaps even the death penalty.
Bear in mind that business owners involved in racketeering can face additional consequences if these charges are brought. For example, while the case is pending, the court may issue what is known as a lien and forfeiture order. This order allows police to seize all assets that may have been involved in racketeering or its proceeds. In addition, the court may choose to enter a restraining order that prohibits you from continuing to operate your business.
As you might imagine, these orders can have a disastrous impact on your business and livelihood. For that reason, if the state decides to pursue this option, you may ask for a hearing to contest the order. At the hearing, you will get an opportunity to ask the court to release or extinguish the lien.
However, to be successful, you must show that the state lacks probable cause for believing that your property was involved in the alleged crime. Keep in mind that this is a lower standard than would apply to criminal convictions. In other words, the state only needs to have reason to believe that there is a connection between your business assets and the offense.
But, this does not mean that they have free rein to seize anything and everything as they see fit. These matters can be complicated, so it’s important to speak with an attorney if you believe your property is being unfairly targeted by police.
In addition, the victims of these crimes may also bring a civil lawsuit against you. Note, that civil cases are independent from criminal charges. This is important because it is possible to have your charges thrown out by the state, but still lose a civil suit and owe financial compensation to the victims or their families. The standard of proof is lower in civil matters, which means that less evidence is needed to prove your involvement in the crime.
If the victim or victims of the crime are successful, they are allowed to recover any items or money that was taken from them. They can also be awarded three times the amount of their actual damages, plus the cost of filing the lawsuit and attorney fees. As you can see, depending on the circumstances of your case, these numbers can get quite large.
Now, while these offenses are serious and carry the potential for severe penalties and other consequences, there are a number of defenses that may be available to you. As mentioned, criminal matters require a significant amount of evidence to prove your guilt. Specifically, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime.
That said, one way that you may challenge the prosecution is on the basis that you lacked the requisite intent to commit the crime. To win their case, the state must show that you intended to or recklessly committed the underlying charge and participated in the criminal enterprise.
For example, if you are being accused of murder, but can show that the death was an accident, your actions would not rise to the level of homicide. This is because the intent to murder is not present.
Another way to dispute the charges is to claim that you lacked any knowledge of the enterprise. Note that this would be extremely difficult to argue if you were the leader of the organization. But, the state may not have sufficient evidence to prove that you did know that racketeering activity was occurring. In this case, the charges against you would need to be dropped.
Other grounds that would allow you to contest the crime would be that no criminal enterprise for illegal gain existed, or that no crime was committed. Again, the state is required to prove that both of these conditions were present.
Finally, there are additional defenses based on a violation of your constitutional rights. Examples would be if you were the victim of an illegal search, were not read your Miranda rights during an arrest, or if you were denied your right to an attorney. In this case, any evidence that was obtained as a result of the violation could not be used against you.
Keep in mind that racketeering charges can have life-altering consequences. These cases are highly complex and you have the right to have an experienced Phoenix racketeering lawyer represent you at all stages of the criminal process.
Now, you will want a qualified Phoenix criminal defense attorney who is experienced not only in racketeering charges, but also potential federal crimes and any underlying offenses you may be charged with. At Orent Law Offices, our skilled legal team will investigate all of the facts of your case and build the best defense. We will aggressively defend you to reduce criminal penalties and get the charges dropped if at all possible. Contact our law firm today to set up a free consultation and learn more.