Federal RICO and gang charges are considered forms of street crimes because most crimes committed for an organization are committed in public. Most street crimes, especially gang charges, are prosecuted at the state level, especially those involving assaults and thefts of property. Theft, vandalism, robbery, and many other types of crimes can qualify as a street crime so long as it is done in public. In the federal system, most people charged with street crimes are charged with being in a street gang, or are accused of being in the illegal drugs trade, or they are charged under the RICO Act, which outlaws organized crime and racketeering.
What Is a Criminal Street Gang Under Federal Law?
A "criminal street gang" under federal law is a group of five or more people where the following three conditions are true:
one of the group's primary purposes is to commit either (a) federal drug felonies that carry prison sentences of at least five years, or (b) federal violent felonies that involve the use of force against someone else;
the group's members have engaged in a continuing series of drug or violent felonies in the last five years; AND
the group's activities affect interstate or foreign commerce
Importantly, it unlikely that someone would be charged with merely being in a gang. Rather, in the federal system defendants in federal gang cases are usually charged with another type of street crime that was done for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Defendants charged with street crimes of this type, they likely face decades in prison, if not life.
What Is RICO and How Does It Relate to Street Crime?
RICO laws are different then street gang laws but just as serious. RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO Act). Under RICO laws, it is a federal crime to participate in or make money from racketeering (organized, illegal activity). The federal law targets not only organized crime, such as the Mafia, but also otherwise legitimate businesses or associations engaged in criminal activity, which would include the illegal drug trade.
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