Groups engaging in criminal activity have long been the focus of law enforcement agencies on the state and federal levels. Laws, such as the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO for short, target large criminal organizations and the profits these criminal enterprises generate. On the state level, Texas enacted an organized crimes law to give prosecutors a weapon they could use against groups of people who engage in illegal activities. Title 11, Chapter 71 of the Texas Penal Code allows prosecutors to add an additional charge of engaging in organized criminal activity when three or more individuals join in certain illegal activities.
Types of Organized Crimes Section 71.02 of the Texas Penal Code makes it a crime to engage in or conspiring to engage in organized criminal activity involving any of the crimes listed in the statute, including:
1. Murder and capital murder
3. Robbery and aggravated robbery
7. Sexual assault
9. Promoting prostitution
10.Unlawful sale of firearms
11.Unlawful manufacture or delivery of controlled substances or dangerous drugs
12.Felony fraud offenses under chapter 32 of the Texas Penal Code
THE DANGER OF OVERCHARGING
This law is a powerful tool (when used properly) for law enforcement to combat criminal street gangs and professional organizations that pose a risk to the community. However, it can also be misused by overcharging. Overcharging is when an overzealous prosecutor charges someone for something more than what they did. In his more than 15 year career Efrain Sain has seen this law used to overcharge people more than any other. For example if 2 young people decide to break into a car and steal some items, and later picks up a friend and all three are in the car at a later time when the car is pulled over by police, it is possible that all 3 could be charged with engaging in organized crime. This would be unfair to all 3, one would be not guilty of any crime and the other 2 would be overcharged from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony.