Criminal Law's Blog
Illinois recently became one of the few states in the country that makes dog fighting punishable under RICO laws, which are typically used to target organized crime. In this state, dog fighting is now a crime that is subject to much stiffer penalties than before.
It's a move that has been widely greeted by animal rights groups in Illinois. The Illinois statute will be based on the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or Rico. RICO was initially used to target mobsters, and has since been also been used to target corruption among public officials, as well as street gangs.
The new Illinois RICO statute has been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. Under the new law, dog fighting is one of dozens of offenses including promotion of prostitution, drug trafficking, terrorism and gun fighting, that can be used as evidence in the prosecution of organized crime.
Most RICO investigations are long-term investigations, in which prosecutors use a number of devices and methods including wiretaps and the use of informants to build a case. These methods will be used even if the members of the gang that is being investigated, have not personally killed another person, or sold drugs.
Now that Illinois has passed the RICO statute, authorities here can come down harder on dog fighting operations. The RICO statute gives authorities the power to dismantle and destroy these operations.
According to law-enforcement officers, the new statutes give them greater power to destroy dog fighting rings at the source. Earlier attempts against dog fighting were limited under the state's animal crimes laws, and there was little that could be done to attack the gang leaders or the criminal operations that fund these dog fighting operations. That should change under the new statutes.