18 U.S.C. § 1959 - Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity
The Violent Crimes in Support of Racketeering Activity (VICAR) statute includes any violent crime that someone or a group commits in support of a racketeering enterprise.
Federal offenses include murder and extortion to support manufacturing, selling, or distributing controlled substances. Notably, the purpose of the activity does not need to support racketeering activity solely.
Also, once a VICAR allegation is made, a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claim usually is made.
To obtain a VICAR conviction, the government has to prove that a criminal organization exists that is a racketeering enterprise. They must also prove that you committed, attempted, or conspired to commit a violent crime to promote their position in or gain entrance into the racketeering enterprise.
18 U.S.C. 1959 says, (a) Whoever, as consideration for the receipt of, or as consideration for a promise or agreement to pay, anything of pecuniary value from an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, or …. for gaining entrance in an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, murders, kidnaps, maims, assaults with a dangerous weapon, commits assault resulting in serious bodily injury upon or threatens to commit a crime of violence against any individual in violation of the laws of any state or the United States, or attempts or conspires so to do, shall be punished….”
Simply put, violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR) is a separate federal criminal charge linked to a federal RICO case. 18 USC 1959 makes it illegal to murder, kidnap, maim, assault with a dangerous weapon, commit assault resulting in serious bodily injury, or threaten to commit a crime of violence if they do so for the purpose of furthering an illegal criminal enterprise.
Often, VICAR counts are added in most street gang cases, especially where there are allegations of firearm violence. Let's review further below.
What Does the Federal Law Say?
18 U.S.C. 1959 includes numerous violent acts committed supporting an enterprise engaged in racketeering, either with a promise to pay or to maintain or increase position within a criminal enterprise. This federal law specifically makes it a crime to do any of the following in support of organized crime:
- Maiming someone;
- Assault with a dangerous weapon;
- Assault causing serious bodily injury;
- Threatening someone with a violent crime; or
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above.
VICAR Quick Facts
Let's review some essential quick facts about the Violent Crimes in Support of Racketeering Activity (VICAR) statute under 18 U.S.C. 1959 below:
- Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970 to fight organized crime in the United States.
- RICO expanded the ability of the government to crack down on criminal organizations and their mafia leaders.
- RICO criminalizes specific acts associated with organized crime on a large scale, such as drug trafficking.
- Before RICO, the government could only prosecute individual crimes by individual members of crime syndicates.
- VICAR is a federal statute that includes violent crimes committed by an individual or group to support a racketeering enterprise.
- VICAR targets the “hit men” behind the criminal organizations.
- VICAR has been expanded to cover multi-national gangs and members;
- VICAR imposes harsh penalties on violent acts to support racketeering.
- VICAR is typically charged along with violating the RICO statute.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 95 Racketeering has numerous federal laws related to 18 U.S.C. 1959 violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity, such as:
- 18 U.S.C. 1951 – Interference with commerce by threats or violence;
- 18 U.S.C. 1952 – Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises;
- 18 U.S.C. 1953 – Interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia;
- 18 U.S.C. 1954 – Offer, acceptance, or solicitation to influence operations of employee benefit plan;
- 18 U.S.C. 1955 – Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses;
- 18 U.S.C. 1956 – Laundering of monetary instruments;
- 18 U.S.C. 1957 – Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity;
- 18 U.S.C. 1958 – Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire;
- 18 U.S.C. 1960 – Prohibition of unlicensed money-transmitting businesses.
What Are the VICAR Penalties?
The penalties under 18 U.S.C. 1959 will depend on the specific violation and are typically severe, such as the following:
- Attempt or conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon or a serious bodily injury - up to three years in federal prison.
- Attempt or conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping - up to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- Assault with a dangerous weapon - up to 20 years in prison.
- Maiming - up to 30 years in prison.
- Kidnapping - up to life in prison.
- Murder - life imprisonment or the death penalty.
- All offenses could include a fine of up to $250,000.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
As discussed below, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney could use different strategies to challenge VICAR allegations.
Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of Intent, which is a critical element of the crime in all federal criminal cases. Perhaps we can show that you did not intend to commit the violent act.
Maybe we can prove the alleged victim's injuries were accidental. Perhaps we can show that you were unaware you were acting in support of a criminal enterprise or had no motivation to be paid or promoted.
Maybe we can prove the crime you are charged with has no connection to racketeering. Recall that for the prosecution to charge someone under 18 U.S.C. 1959, it must have been committed in furtherance of racketeering activity.
Maybe the federal offenses were committed independently of racketeering, but you could face lesser federal or state charges with lighter penalties.
Maybe you are the victim of mistaken identity or a false allegation. Suppose the victim misidentified you, which could result in an acquittal. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California.