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Differences in Civil, Criminal RICO Allegations

After being indicted for either a civil or criminal racketeering allegation, it is crucial to immediately hire a federal racketeering attorney. RICO is an extremely complex law, which can be difficult for many amateur lawyers to properly utilize. Only an experienced RICO lawyer will be able to work with the strength and determination your specific case requires. The right attorney can help to ensure that any and all possible penalties that are being brought against you are minimized and that there are no longstanding effects incurred from such a charge.

Civil RICO vs. Criminal RICO

A civil plaintiff will still have to prove the basic elements required in the RICO statute to prove a claim, including a person, an enterprise engaged in or affecting interstate commerce, pattern of racketeering activity, the operation and management test, and the through requirement. Although the standard of proof in a civil action is based upon a preponderance of the evidence, the civil RICO plaintiff must additionally prove “causation,” injury to business or property, and that he or she is subject to a more complicated statute of limitations. Also, in a civil racketeering action alleging fraud, the claim must be pleaded with particularity.

Statute of Limitations

This issue of the statute of limitations in civil RICO cases has been addressed by the Supreme Court in various decisions but is still being interpreted in various ways by the lower courts. The statute of limitations in civil RICO cases requires that a case is brought within four years from the date when the injury occurred or should have been discovered, regardless of whether or when the injury is discovered to be a part of a pattern of racketeering.

Under the “separate accrual” rule, the commission of a separable, new predicate act within a four–year limitations period permits a plaintiff to recover for the additional damages caused by that act. By contrast, in a criminal RICO case, the statute of limitations requires that the government must return an indictment within five years from the date when the last racketeering act was committed or was agreed to be committed by the defendant. In RICO conspiracy, the statute of limitations may be extended to within five years from the last date the defendant evidenced his agreement to participate in the RICO conspiracy.

Potential Hurdles

Another potential issue for civil RICO claims is that the courts generally do not favor civil RICO complaints, as such actions carry treble damages, the award of attorney fees and label the defendant as a “racketeer.” Therefore, many courts may be prone to dismiss civil RICO complaints, particularly those based on wire and mail fraud, when the case presents itself as merely a “garden-variety” business dispute. A civil RICO action is more likely to be successful if it carries with it the attributes of a criminal case, such as bribes, kickbacks, threats, or commission of violence. An attorney skilled in analyzing civil RICO cases is invaluable in determining whether a RICO complaint should be filed and how it should be defended.