Definition of Engaging In Organized Criminal Activity In Texas

A person commits the crime of engaging in organized criminal activity if, "with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination . . ., he commits or conspires to commit one or more enumerated offenses." Tex. Penal Code Ann. 71.02(a) (West Supp. 2000). Among the listed offenses is aggravated assault, the lesser-included offense with which appellant was charged. See id. 71.02(a)(1). a "combination" is defined as "three or more persons who collaborate in carrying on criminal activities." Id. 71.01(a) (West Supp. 2000). The court of criminal appeals held that the phrase "carrying on criminal activities" cannot be understood to include an agreement to jointly commit a single criminal act. See Nguyen v. State, 1 S.W.3d 694, 697 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). Rather, the statute includes an element of intended continuity, and the State must prove that "the appellant intended to 'establish, maintain, or participate in' a group of three or more, in which the members intend to work together in a continuing course of criminal activities." Id. In Nguyen the defendant was convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity and murder. Nguyen was dining with friends when men at another table directed lewd comments toward a woman in his party. See Nguyen v. State, 977 S.W.2d 450, 452 (Tex. App.--Austin 1998), aff'd, 1 S.W.3d 694 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). After a brief confrontation in the restaurant, Nguyen and his friends were asked to leave. See id. Agreeing amongst themselves to return and fight, they went to Nguyen's apartment, retrieved a gun, and returned to the restaurant. See id. From the car, Nguyen shot at the other group as they left the restaurant, killing the victim. See id. Reversing Nguyen's organized-crime conviction, this Court held that "all of the evidence here . . . indicates that the murder was committed with intent and agreement to retaliate through the commission of a single offense; no evidence indicates an intent to establish, maintain or participate in a group that would work together in a continuing course of criminal activities." Nguyen, 977 S.W.2d at 456.