Synopsis of RICO Statute
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Synopsis of RICO Statute
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was passed into law on the 15th of October 1970. At the time, the main aim of the RICO was to curb the prevalence of the mafia in the US. The RICO enabled criminal justice prosecutors to combine the different crimes instigated by members of mafia organization into a single case so as to allow for mafia bosses to be charged for the numerous different types of crimes. This worked as intended and led to a huge decrease in mafia related activities in the US. This paper seeks to present a synopsis of the RICO statute.
The RICO act came into being as a result of the prevalence of general crime as well as organized crime. According to Anderson and Jackson, the prevailing political climate at the time favored passing of the RICO Act. In the years 1960 to 1970, the American people demonstrated great opposition to the Vietnam War and as such exhibit a lot of violence with regard to the war. During the same period, the criminal justices continued to supply data showing increasing rates of crime, from ordinary criminal offenses, rape, reported murders, robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries. Data from the criminal justice departments across all states indicate that the increase in these criminal activities was higher than population growth. Pressure from the American people precipitated the Nixon administration to seek means with which to curb rising crime.
Anderson and Jackson provide that the RICO acronym was sourced from a gangster movie titled Little Caesar whose main character was Rico. The law essentially enabled federal law enforcement agencies to deny a defendant due process through different unconstitutional activities such as freezing the assets of a defendant. By setting up derivative crimes, the RICO enabled federal law enforcement agencies to sidestep state courts where in numerous instances members of the mafia were eventually acquitted of known crimes. At present, the law also encompasses white collar crimes as well as corruption and has proven to be equally effective (Pierson).
Pierson provides that it is a criminal offense under the RICO act to:
- Utilize income sourced from any racketeering activity and acquire interests in a venture that impacts on interstate commerce.
- Gain or otherwise maintain interest in a venture impacting on interstate commerce through any racketeering activity.
- Participate in or conduct racketeering activities impacting on interstate commerce.
- The intent to conspire to engage in any of the above mentioned activities.
According to Anderson and Jackson the RICO is a bargaining tool favoring prosecutors and an arbitrary criminal penalty enhancer. For instance, the US federal justice system is able bind into one prosecution a number of diverse crimes and defendants which without RICO would be impossible to tie together through conventional evidence and criminal procedure rules (Anderson and Jackson).
In conclusion, the RICO Act is an amorphous, complex and capacious statute passed at a time when the political climate in the US called for drastic measure to be taken to combat rising crime and more so organized crime. It however worked well to bring about the era of the mafia in the US and at present is employed to effectively curb the rising incidences of white collar crime. However, as discussed in this synopsis, it gains its strength from denying defendants of constitutional freedoms and rights.
Anderson, L. William and Jackson, E. Candice. Law as a Weapon: How RICO Subverts Liberty and the True Purpose of Law. The Independent Review. Summer 2004. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. < http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=215 >
Pierson, B. Pamela. Rico, Corruption and White-Collar Crime. Temple Law Review, Vol 85. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. < http://sites.temple.edu/lawreview/files/2013/06/Pierson-85-Temp.-L.-Rev.-523.pdf>