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California Penalties for Racketeering?

Posted in Criminal Defense on June 24, 2019

If a court convicts you of racketeering in California, it finds you guilty of involvement in some kind of criminal activity for the purpose of financial gain. The penalties for racketeering can be extremely severe depending on the circumstances of the crime. The best way to protect yourself against the full penalties of racketeering is to hire an experienced embezzlement or fraud lawyer to defend your rights and negotiate a lighter charge with the courts. Otherwise, you could face the full force of the law against you.

What Is Racketeering?

Racketeering does not refer to one specific crime. Instead, it can refer to many different crimes, including embezzlement, drug trafficking, fraud, slavery, mob or gang activity, money laundering, gambling, kidnapping, bribery, and homicide. Most racketeering crimes refer to illegal schemes for money. Racketeering is not necessarily a crime at all, but rather a way of thinking. It is also not a single act. In California courts, prosecutors have the burden to prove that the defendant has engaged in a pattern of two or more racketeering activities.

The RICO Act

The federal government passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in 1970 to combat organized crime activities such as racketeering. Under RICO, a person could face criminal and civil penalties for performing racketeering activities in the U.S. Prosecutors have used the RICO act to go up against members of the mafia, anti-abortion groups, motorcycle gangs, and many other instances of organized crime. If the courts convict someone of racketeering under the RICO Act, the individual could face many different serious penalties.

Prison Sentence

Violating the provisions of the federal racketeering law could result in a prison sentence up to 20 years per infraction, on top of hefty fines and restitution penalties. It is possible for a defendant to face life in prison if the conviction consists of a racketeering activity that is eligible for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Someone facing prison time for racketeering may or may not be eligible for early release depending on the individual situation. Committing any of the 35 organized crimes listed under RICO two or more times within a 10-year period could result in a prison term for racketeering.

The minimum prison sentence for racketeering is 30 to 37 months in prison. The courts might assign this lighter sentence to a defendant with no prior significant record, depending on the details of the case. However, a judge can tailor a prison sentence to the defendant based on several adjustments that may change the level of the racketeering crime. Knowing the judge and the judge’s personal criminal justice philosophies can help your criminal defense attorney minimize a racketeering prison term.


In addition to a prison sentence, someone facing a conviction for racketeering under RICO may have to pay up to $25,000 in fines per racketeering count. The defendant will also have to forfeit any money, possessions, assets, or interests in a business he or she obtained through racketeering activities. The courts may also order restitution payments the defendant will have to pay the victim of any racketeering activities. A victim will also have the right to file a civil racketeering claim against the defendant in pursuit of additional damages.