Criminal activities carried out by multiple participants in collaboration with each other have drawn the attention of legislators on the state and federal levels. Prosecutors can charge a person with commission of a crime, but if other individuals are involved in the planning, commission or distribution of the profits of a crime, all participants can now be charged with the federal crime of racketeering or the Texas crime of engaging in organized criminal activity. The inclusion of additional charges increases the penalties that can be imposed if the accused individuals are convicted.
Three or more people working together to engage in criminal activity can be charged with engaging in organized crime under Chapter 71 of the Texas Penal Code. The statute refers to individuals joining together for a criminal purpose as a combination. It does not lessen the criminal nature of a combination if the people involved do not know the identities of the other member or if the members join or drop out as the criminal activities progress.
The criminal statute in Texas lists crimes that form the basis for a charge of engaging in organized crime. If a person who commits or conspires with others to commit any of the crimes mentioned in the criminal code, prosecutors can also charge the person with racketeering. Some of the crimes that are mentioned in the statute include:
Obtaining a conviction in a racketeering case requires that prosecutors prove that the individuals alleged to be members of a criminal organization joined it with the intention of engaging in or facilitating criminal activities. For example, the owner of a gun shop who is arrested for dealing in stolen firearms might claim as a defense that the purchases were made from someone who appeared to be a legitimate firearms wholesaler.
Even if an individual intentionally joins a criminal organization, the law provides a defense to those who voluntarily withdraw from it. This defense can only be used by a person who withdrew under all of the following circumstances:
Renunciation does not absolve a person from criminal liability, but it could reduce the severity of the punishment.
A conviction of a charge of racketeering in Texas is punishable one category higher than the most serious offense committed by the organization. For example, if the crime committed by the organization is a class A misdemeanor, a racketeering conviction is punished as a state jail felony.
If the organization decides to commit a serious crime, you could be facing some hefty penalties. Allow Rand Mintzer to help you out by calling 713-862-8880.