What is Engaging In Organized Criminal Activity?

The crime of engaging in organized criminal activity (EOCA) requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted with intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination (defined below), to conspire to commit one or more of the enumerated offenses set out below.

The term “conspires to commit” means under Texas law that a person agrees with one or more individuals that one or more of them will engage in conduct that would constitute the offense and one or more of them perform an overt act in pursuance of the agreement.

By definition, engaging in organized criminal activity is not a stand-alone charge. You can be prosecuted for EOCA and for the underlying charge. A conviction for EOCA is one level higher than the underlying offense.

Some of the enumerated offenses that can be the basis of an EOCA charge include:

  •  Murder
  • Capital Murder
  • Arson
  • Aggravated robbery and robbery
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Aggravated kidnapping and kidnapping
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault
  •  Continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Forgery
  • Burglary of a motor vehicle

What is a Combination?

Ultimately, combination means that three or more people collaborate in carrying on criminal activities. The participants do not have to know each other’s identities, and membership in the combination can change from time to time.

The law does require the participation of three or more individuals to prove a combination. So, the prosecutors must prove three of the individuals named in the indictment committed or conspired to commit an enumerated crime as part of an ongoing course of criminal activity.

Since a “combination” requires that the persons involved worked together with the intent of establishing a continuing course of criminal activity; proof that the defendant and others committed or conspired to commit a single offense is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of EOCA. The exception to this is if the single act was committed by members of a criminal street gang.

What is a Criminal Street Gang?

It is defined as three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.

Punishments and Sentencing

Punishments for engaging in organized criminal activity depend on the base crime committed. The charge raises the initial offense by one level. So, if a person has committed a crime that qualifies as a Class A Misdemeanor, a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity would make the alleged crime a State Felony.

POSSIBLE DEFENSES AGAINST ENGAGING IN ORGANIZED CRIMINAL ACTIVITY CHARGES

While a conviction for engaging in organized criminal activity makes the crime and punishment more severe, the charge can be very difficult for a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled defense attorney can develop an argument showing that no conspiracy, street gang, or combination of people were involved.

One of the most important areas to look at when defending an EOCA is whether the underlying crime was a single event or whether the evidence can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the definition of a “combination” existed. The prosecutors must be able to show that there existed, not a single event, but that the defendant and two or more individuals participated in an on-going course of criminal activities.

The defense should closely scrutinize whether the person charged actually committed an overt act in pursuance of the agreement, which is required for a conviction under the EOCA statute.

If you are facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, Attorney Matt Bingham is ready to defend you not only against this charge but also against your underlying criminal charges as well. You need to secure a competent and qualified defense lawyer. Contact the law offices of Matt Bingham today to schedule a free consultation.

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