It’s called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and if you’re accused of a RICO violation, then you may be facing criminal penalties and costly civil lawsuits, even if you have not personally committed a crime. Prosecutors may bring a RICO charge if they believe you ordered or helped others to commit crimes.

RICO charges are brought against individuals who are believed to be part of a criminal organization. It may be the case, however, that no such organization existed, and a criminal defense attorney with experience in RICO cases can explore this matter through detailed investigation.

In RICO cases, there can be a significant difference between a person’s alleged role in an organization and that same person’s actual role. Clarifying this distinction is often the key to showing that the prosecution’s claims cannot be substantiated in court.

A wide variety of crimes can be regarded as RICO violations, including white collar crimes, drug crimes, threats of violence and violent crimes such as murder. Individuals convicted of racketeering face the possibility of decades in prison, as well as forfeiture of any proceeds believed to be ill-gotten through racketeering.

Keep in mind, though, that no one has to wait to be charged to begin building a counterweight to the evidence the prosecution intends to present. If you believe authorities suspect you of a crime, then you have the right to speak with a lawyer about the matter and begin defending your rights. In some cases, the steps taken prior to any charges being filed can help prosecutors see that there is no reasonable basis for bringing a criminal charge.