Many drug-related arrests result from traffic stops and other interactions where police find illegal drugs during a search. These typically result in drug possession charges, but if the quantity of the drugs is high enough, the defendant is presumed to be distributing the drug. However, what the authorities really want to do is to break up large, violent, drug trafficking networks. To achieve this, police attempt large-scale sting operations and prosecutors use more complex charges, such as racketeering charges.
Recently, prosecutors unsealed an indictment against five men they allege to be involved in a violent heroin distribution network in New York. New reports referred to the defendants as the Bushwick Crew, and said they were based in Brooklyn and Queens. Four people have already been charged in connection with the alleged drug network, bringing the total to nine defendants in the case. Seven of these nine have been charged with homicide in connection with their alleged roles in the Bushwick Crew. Some of the charges involve alleged racketeering.
Racketeering charges are a way for the authorities to break up large, illegal enterprises, or “rackets.” In the past, prosecutors found that it was difficult to crack down on organized crime because traditional criminal law tended to catch only the rank-and-file members of the rackets, while the individuals at the top of the organization hierarchy tended to escape prosecution. The federal government passed the RICO Act in 1978, and state governments passed their own laws in order to hold the heads of rackets accountable for their groups’ crimes.
These charges are very serious, and can lead to people spending decades in prison. In racketeering prosecutions of complex organizations, it is possible for low-level operators or even completely innocent people to be charged with crimes much more serious than they deserve.
Everyone who is accused of a crime deserves a defense. If you are facing the possibility of drug trafficking charges, speak to a lawyer as soon as you can.