Gang Members of Common Intelligence: The Relevance of the Vagueness Doctrine in RICO Prosecutions of Urban Street Gangs

Abstract: This article will examine the constitutionality of the criminal provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act, specifically focusing on whether or not the application of the statute to sophisticated urban street gangs is in violation of the vagueness doctrine derived from the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.1 The analysis will concentrate on constitutional challenges to specific elements of the statute,2 with distinct attention paid to its controversial “pattern of racketeering” and “enterprise” requirements. Given the legal precedent set by numerous challenges to various elements of the statute and recent attempts to define those elements, I argue that the RICO statute, though broad in scope, is not unconstitutionally vague or ambiguous in the context of urban street gang prosecutions.

Author: Kevin Hasenfang is a third-year in the College, majoring in Public Policy Studies.

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