Florida Authorities Cracking Down On Gang Violence
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office recently arrested nine defendants tied to gang activity, in an investigation that spanned over a year. The defendants are charged with racketeering. The police uncovered illegally purchased weapons, drugs and a large sum of money. Some of the defendants are also tied to ongoing homicide investigations. Police are warning that is just the tip of the iceberg as they try to make a dent in stopping organized crime. If a defendant is charged with a crime in relation to gang violence or racketeering, are the penalties enhanced?
What is Racketeering?
Florida Statute 895.02 states that racketeering activity “means to commit, to attempt to commit, to conspire to commit, or solicit, coerce or intimidate another person to commit” any form of criminal activity. This includes fraud, illegal sale of cigarettes or alcohol, illegal gaming or gambling, failure to report currency transactions, state benefits fraud, witness tampering, bribery, violent crimes or any other criminal activity considering racketeering under 18 U.S.C. 1961. Depending on the location of the criminal activity and what crimes have been conspired or allegedly committed, a defendant or defendants could be facing federal charges instead of state charges. It is also illegal for someone to take illegal earnings or profits from racketeering and invest profits in a criminal enterprise or legitimate business. The RICO Act, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a federal law that prescribes enhanced criminal penalties for gang related activity furthering a criminal enterprise.
What are the Penalties for Racketeering and Gang Activity?
If a defendant is charged with racketeering or a crime related to gang activity in Florida, and is convicted, he or she may be sentenced to enhanced penalties. For example, if a defendant is arrested for aggravated assault and is convicted, they could be looking at five years in prison, five years’ probation, and a fine, because aggravated assault is a third degree felony. However, if the crime is enhanced due to a gang affiliation, the penalty is elevated to a second degree felony, meaning a conviction could result in ten years in prison and ten years’ probation, and a larger fine. Any form of gang affiliation or activity tied to a criminal offense essentially doubles a criminal sentence.
In addition, Florida authorities and federal authorities have the power to seize property, money and other tangible and intangible assets during a criminal investigation if they believe the property was purchased using illegal funds. This is referred to as asset forfeiture, and can occur even if the defendant has not been convicted yet. Because of the severity of these crimes, it is crucial you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been formally charged or are a target of a federal investigation.
Contact West Palm Beach Defense Attorney William Wallshein
If you are linked to gang activity or racketeering charges, or someone you know is in need of a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney, contact William Wallshein. With thirty-five years of experience representing clients throughout South Florida, Mr. Wallshein provides no-nonsense advice and is dedicated to preserving his client’s civil liberties. Gang-affiliated charges are serious; often enhancing penalties substantially. A conviction could change your life forever, but it does not have to. Call Mr. Wallshein today to schedule a free consultation.