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What Is Civil RICO Law?


Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a federal law that was put into place to allow the government to crack down on racketeering. As explained by the Department of Justice (DOJ), RICO charges can be filed against those who act as part of an “enterprise” and engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity.” There are also state based RICO laws, including in Florida.

When most people hear about RICO, they think about criminal law. However, there are also federal and state civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes in place. Civil RICO laws are being used more frequently. In this blog post, our West Palm Beach RICO claims attorneys provide an overview of civil claims.

Three Things to Know About Civil RICO Claims 

  1. A Private Party Can File a Claim Against Business, Organization, or Other “Enterprise” 

Civil RICO laws allow private parties—both individuals and businesses—a path to take legal action to hold a company, organization, or informal enterprise liable for damages caused by racketeering activity. You can file a civil RICO claim against a business that defrauded you through racketeering even if federal or state prosecutors are not interested in pursuing a criminal case. With civil RICO claims, there are sometimes corresponding criminal cases, but that is not a legal requirement.  

  1. The Elements are Similar—But the Burden of Proof is Different 

The elements of a civil RICO lawsuit are broadly similar to a criminal RICO case. To prove liability, one must prove that the defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as part of an enterprise. It is a relatively high standard to meet. Both federal and state courts have emphasized that a RICO violation is more than “mere fraud.” There must be a pattern of racketeering activity as part of a formal or informal enterprise.

That being said, the burden of proof is actually lower in a civil RICO case than it is in a criminal RICO case. In criminal court, the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty of the selected charge beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, civil RICO claims are subject to the less cumbersome “preponderance of evidence” standard—meaning you have to prove that it is “more likely than not” that the defendant is guilty of a civil RICO violation. 

  1. Civil RICO Offers a Powerful Remedy (Treble Damages) 

Federal and state civil RICO laws carry powerful legal remedies. A plaintiff who files a civil RICO lawsuit in federal court or state court in Florida has the right to seek treble damages. In other words, they can seek financial compensation worth three times the value of their actual economic losses related to the pattern of racketeering activity.

Get Help From a South Florida Civil RICO Lawyer

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida commercial litigation attorneys have the skills and experience to represent both plaintiffs and defendants in civil RICO claims. We will protect your rights and help you find the best path forward. Connect with us today to arrange a fully private review of your legal case. From our office in West Palm Beach and our office in Miami, we provide civil RICO litigation representation throughout all of Southeastern Florida.



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