How Does A Prior Or Parallel Criminal Proceeding Impact A Civil RICO Lawsuit?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a federal law that imposes serious legal liability on those who engage in racketeering activity as part of an enterprise. Florida also has its own state RICO statute called the Florida RICO Act. Federal RICO law and Florida RICO law are both criminal and civil statutes. A defendant could be arrested and/or face civil liability.
This raises an important question: Does a criminal RICO case affect a corresponding civil RICO case? The answer is ‘yes’—but how exactly will depend on a number of different factors. Here, our West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyer discusses the key things to know about how a prior or parallel criminal case could affect a civil RICO lawsuit in Florida.
Background: Criminal Case and Civil Case are Separate Legal Proceedings
As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that a criminal RICO charge and a civil RICO lawsuit are two separate legal proceedings—even if they involve the same underlying cause of action. There are some important differences between criminal RICO law and civil RICO law. Notable examples include:
- Private parties can file a civil RICO lawsuit, while only the government can initiate criminal RICO charges;
- The standard of liability is preponderance of evidence in a civil RICO claim, whereas the reasonable doubt standard applies to a criminal RICO charge; and
- A plaintiff in a civil RICO lawsuit can seek compensation for treble damages—meaning three times the value of their actual losses.
Civil RICO Claim: Filed Without a Criminal Charge, With a Dropped Case or With a Conviction
A prior or parallel criminal RICO charge may have some indirect effect on a civil RICO case. Still, these are separate court proceedings and there are some separate legal standards that apply. A plaintiff can file a civil RICO lawsuit in any of the following three circumstances:
- No criminal RICO case was ever open. The defendant never faces any formal criminal racketeering charge.
- The defendant was arrested and charged with a RICO violation. However, they were not convicted of the offense.
- The defendant was charged with a federal or state criminal RICO violation and they were convicted of the offense.
The evidence obtained in a prior or parallel criminal RICO case could be relevant—and potentially admissible—in a civil RICO lawsuit. However, the reality is that these are separate cases. A civil RICO lawsuit requires a civil RICO lawyer.
Contact Our Palm Beach County Civil RICO Claims Attorney for Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we are experienced and adept in handling civil RICO litigation. If you have any specific questions about how a prior or parallel criminal charge could affect the civil case of RICO litigation, we are here to help. Reach out to us by phone or contact us online to arrange your completely private initial case assessment. With a main office in West Palm Beach, we handle civil RICO claims in Palm Beach County and throughout the surrounding area in Southeastern Florida.