In many cases in which a person engages in criminal activity while using a firearm, he or she may be charged with additional offenses in addition to facing charges for the underlying crime. For example, a person that commits a crime of violence while carrying a weapon may be charged with a federal firearms offense. Recently, a Florida court addressed the issue of whether a RICO conspiracy crime constitutes a crime of violence under federal law, ultimately determining that it does not. If you are charged with RICO conspiracy or any other drug crime, it is prudent to speak with a St. Petersburg drug crime defense attorney experienced in handling complex matters to determine what defenses may be available.
Factual and Procedural History
It is reported that the defendants, collectively, operated an organization engaged in drug trafficking in Florida. Many of them carried guns while they kidnapped, beat, and murdered people. They were charged with and convicted of participating in a racketeering conspiracy under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, drug trafficking conspiracy, gun crimes, and other offenses. Following their convictions and sentencing, they appealed on several grounds, including the issue of whether RICO conspiracy is a crime of violence.
RICO Conspiracy Is Not a Crime of Violence
Under federal law 18 U.S.C. 924(c), a crime of violence is a felony that includes as one of its elements the use, or attempted or threatened use, of physical force against another person or property, or that by its nature, involves a significant risk that physical force will be used in the commission of the offense. After the statute was enacted, the clause regarding a significant risk of force was deemed unconstitutional. Thus, in determining whether an act constitutes a crime of violence, the court must look to the elements of the crime.
A court will employ a categorical approach when assessing whether a criminal offense is a crime of violence. In other words, it will look at whether the statutory elements of the predicate offense require, at the very least, an attempt or threat to use force. In the subject case, the court explained that to establish a RICO conspiracy crime, the prosecution must show that the defendants objectively manifested an agreement to participate in the conduct of the affairs of the criminal enterprise by committing two or more predicate crimes.
RICO conspiracy does not require proof of the commission of an act or of an agreement to commit individual predicate acts. In other words, the focus is on whether the parties agreed to commit a crime, which does not require the existence of a threat or attempt to use force. As such, the court found that RICO conspiracy is not a crime of violence.
Speak with an Experienced St. Petersburg Attorney
If you live in St. Petersburg and are accused of committing federal drug crimes, it is essential to engage an attorney who will fight tirelessly on your behalf. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced St. Petersburg drug crime defense attorney who is adept at defending people charged with serious federal crimes and he will work tirelessly to help you seek a successful outcome. Mr. Hanlon can be reached via the online form or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a meeting.