Drug trafficking is a serious felony offense in both federal and Minnesota state court. The penalties under the new state trafficking laws are extremely harsh, and a first-degree trafficking conviction can land you in jail for decades and result in substantial fines. To make matters worse, many drug trafficking charges also come with charges of RICO violations.
The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute is a federal law, and Minnesota is one of the states with its own state-level RICO law. The law aims at bringing down criminal organizations and, under certain circumstances, allows prosecutors to charge all members of an organization for the criminal activity of specific members. While RICO initially targeted mafia groups, in today’s society, it is most often used to target organized street gangs and drug cartels.
When authorities learn of a possible trafficking scheme, they will often investigate to determine the extent of the operation. RICO charges can apply if there is evidence of both of the following:
Racketeering laws set out 35 or more racketeering crimes considered to be “predicate offenses.” These offenses include:
If a prosecutor can allege that a criminal enterprise engaged two or more of these activities in the past ten years, all known members of the enterprise can face RICO violation charges. Drug trafficking schemes often involve money laundering to hide the source of the profits from the operations. The trafficking and money laundering is enough to qualify as a pattern of racketeering activity. Consider that drug cartels often engage in violence and other offenses, and you can imagine why members arrested for trafficking also can face RICO charges.
If you are convicted of a RICO violation, you can face serious legal consequences, including lengthy jail sentences and substantial fines. also will forfeit all of your interests in the enterprise. These penalties can be in addition to any other charges, such as the drug trafficking charges, firearm possession, and more. Prosecutors use RICO to arrest numerous members of a cartel, impose longer prison sentences, and break up cartels when possible.
It’s important to understand that the consequences of a RICO conviction do not end with the sentence imposed by the court. If you are convicted of violating RICO, you can face collateral consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life. For example, a RICO conviction on your record can make it very difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, pursue higher education, or obtain a professional license. Because of these serious and potentially lifelong consequences, it’s important for anyone facing allegations of RICO violations to retain an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
How Trafficking Arrests Occur
Sometimes, drug trafficking arrests occur by chance. Police officers may pull over a car, have probable cause to search the car, and then discover a large quantity of narcotics. When a certain quantity of drugs is involved, it will trigger trafficking charges instead of simple possession or distribution charges. Officers will then likely try to gain information from the arrestees about who they work for and how extensive the operation is.
In other situations, authorities may suspect that trafficking is occurring and may launch an investigation to determine the source of a drug supply. Investigations may involve undercover operations and use extensive resources to track down anyone involved in the trafficking scheme. When officers finally make an arrest, they will try to gather information and evidence regarding the other members of the cartel to hopefully make RICO-based arrests.
Defending against Trafficking and RICO Charges
Because of the harsh penalties possible in a trafficking and RICO case, it is critical to have a highly experienced felony defense lawyer handling your case. There are many defenses that may apply, including:
Our attorneys can work to reduce your charges and potential sentence, or to have your case dropped completely.
Contact a St. Paul Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance
At Capitol City Law Group, we know that felony drug cases can be extremely complex. Our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers regularly represent defendants facing multiple serious charges, and we work to protect the rights of our clients and provide an aggressive and effective defense. If you’ve been arrested or charged with a felony, please do not hesitate to call our office at 651-212-4073 or contact us online for a free consultation right away.