New Yorkers arrested based on drug crime allegations may face additional risks. In some drug cases, federal prosecutors may decide to pursue RICO charges, increasing the level of potential penalties.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act gives state and federal law enforcement agencies powers to help them more effectively investigate and prosecute certain common types of organized crime. The Act lists several crimes, including drug trafficking and drug dealing, that can serve as a basis for RICO prosecution.

Generally, a person or entity must commit two of the listed crimes within 10 years. Prosecutors must also show that the crimes were in aid of an organization’s criminal aims.

What is at stake

A RICO conviction can result in substantially longer imprisonment than would otherwise result, as well as serious financial penalties. Even before conviction, prosecutors gathering evidence may have the power to seize assets belonging to you or others if they believe you used those assets in committing the crime. For example, your house could be at risk if prosecutors allege you sold drugs from it.

Additional liability

Because RICO aims to strike at criminal organizations, not just at participating individuals, it includes collective responsibility. This means that you could be held criminally responsible for crimes other people committed.

Challenging the prosecution’s case

To get a conviction, prosecutors must prove several matters. They must prove you actually committed the criminal act, the existence of a criminal organization and your crime’s connection to it. Often, the evidence in such cases is voluminous and complex. A thorough understanding of both the law and the procedure specific to RICO cases is necessary to sift through it and find weaknesses.

If you face RICO charges, you need an experienced defense attorney who understands the intricacies of this type of case and who is ready to challenge the prosecution’s evidence. Retaining a qualified lawyer as soon as possible can be your best chance of building a strong defense.