Functioning much like federal RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization) charges, California Penal Code 186.2 PC was created to prosecute criminal enterprises at the state level. These offenses are referred to as “criminal profiteering.”
PC 186.2 is part of the “California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act,” which makes criminal profiteering a crime, also known as “racketeering.” The Act includes Penal Codes 186 PC through 186.8 PC.
This statute is designed to penalize patterns of criminal behavior from organized crimes. PC 186.2 criminal profiteering charges will only apply when there is a demonstrated pattern of activity. This means there must be at least two incidents, including the current underlying crime and a conviction for a prior offense.
To be considered a pattern of criminal activity, two incidents must have occurred within ten years of each other, not counting any period of incarceration.
They must also be connected by common characteristics, such as having similar methods, victims, and results. Further, they must be related to organized crime and not isolated incidents.
Penalties for a criminal profiteering conviction can be quite severe. As such, it is recommended that you retain legal counsel as soon as possible to organize your defense.
If you have been accused of criminal profiteering, the following page from our California criminal defense lawyers will help you understand these charges better.
What Does the Law Say?
The state legislation defining criminal profiteering is called the “California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act,” comprised of California Penal Code sections 186-186.8.
These statutes identify and punish repeated patterns of illegal activities undertaken to gain an undue financial gain or advantage. Like racketeering at the federal level, organized crime is the main focus of the act.
Organized crime refers to coordinated illegal behavior through planning together. The people within these criminal enterprises typically make money by providing illicit goods and services to the public.
Organized crime rings are usually large-scale enterprises crossing state borders, including local criminal street gangs and their members.
What Is Considered Criminal Profiteering?
California Penal Code 186.2 PC is the most extensive statute in the section, listing a variety of criminal offenses that could fall under the criminal profiteering umbrella, including:
- Child pornography or exploitation,
- Counterfeit of a registered mark,
- Corporate securities violations,
- Drug trafficking,
- Enticing a minor to prostitution,
- False or fraudulent activities, schemes, or artifices,
- Felonious assault,
- Grand theft,
- Human trafficking,
- Identity theft,
- Illegal gambling,
- Insurance fraud,
- Money laundering,
- Motor vehicle theft,
- Pimping and pandering,
- Presentation of a false or fraudulent claim,
- Receiving stolen property,
- Solicitation crimes,
- Trafficking in controlled substances,
- Unauthorized computer access and fraud,
- Conspiracy to commit any of the above.
Furthermore, as noted, to qualify as a “pattern of criminal profiteering activity” under the law, the following standards must be met:
- At least two incidences from the above list must have occurred within ten years (incarceration periods are not counted)
- Cannot be isolated incidents (meaning the events served a similar purpose or involved the same victims, methods, etc.)
- Offenses were undertaken to seek a financial gain or advantage; the actions were committed as criminal activity of organized crime
What Is Considered Organized Crime?
California Penal Code 186.2(d) defines “organized crime” as crimes that are:
- Conspiratorial in nature,
- Organized or coordinated,
- Committed to making a profit by providing illegal goods and services, conducting illegal activities, or carrying out fraudulent schemes.
Organized crime can also refer to offenses committed by a criminal street gang. If the criminal organization is large enough or operates across state lines, it's possible that members will be prosecuted under RICO laws at the federal level.
What Are the Penalties?
Depending on the severity of the case, non-financial penalties for criminal profiteering can range from probation to extensive prison sentences.
The most recent crime committed — the underlying offense — will be prosecuted first. If the underlying offense is murder, it will naturally carry more serious incarceration penalties than illegal gambling. The offender's prior criminal record will also be taken into account.
Because criminal organizations involve multiple people, the incarceration of one individual is not always considered adequate to curb future illegal activity. Therefore, the prioritized penalties for criminals are typically financial. This is usually accomplished by asset forfeiture and seizing property.
If convicted, the accused will likely lose a significant amount of their possessions, and their accounts would be drained substantially.
Of course, the prosecution will need to prove that these assets were gained due to illegal activity. This is where having an experienced criminal profiteering attorney can be crucial.
What Are the Legal Defenses for Charges Under PC 186.2?
Criminal profiteering charges under PC 186.2 can be challenging to navigate for the accused. The underlying offense is always prosecuted first, which means the best way to overcome profiteering charges is to win the initial charge.
Simply put, if the California state prosecutors can't prove that the accused committed the underlying offense, they will not be able to prove profiteering either. Always retain a lawyer as soon as you are facing any legal issues.
If the underlying offense has already resulted in a conviction, your legal counsel will pivot to fight against Penal Code 186.2 PC specifically. Options in these situations are limited, but victory remains possible. Common defense strategies that might be used are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge that you were participating as part of a criminal organization.
Maybe we can say that the two crimes were isolated incidents unrelated to a larger purpose or scheme. Perhaps we can enter into negotiations prefiling with law enforcement detectives and the prosecuting agency to prevent the formal filing of criminal charges, known as a “DA reject.”
The right way to defend against criminal profiteering charges will depend on the case details. Reach out to an experienced attorney to find the most effective strategy for your case.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm providing legal representation across California. Contact us for an initial case consultation via phone or fill out the contact form.