Proving ''Engaging In Organized Criminal Activity'' Charge In Texas
How to prove the offense of ''engaging in organized criminal activity'' ?
A person commits the offense of engaging in organized criminal activity if, "with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination. . . he commits . . . one or more of" the offenses listed in Penal Code 71.02(a)(1), including theft. Tex. Penal Code 71.02(a).
A "combination" is defined as "three or more people who collaborate in carrying on criminal activities." Tex. Penal Code 71.01(a).
In Nguyen v. State, 1 S.W.3d 694 (Tex.Crim.App. 1999), the court held:
The phrase "collaborate in carrying on criminal activities" cannot be understood to include an agreement to jointly commit a single crime; the State must prove more than that the [defendant] committed or conspired to commit one of the enumerated offenses with two or more people. 1 S.W.3d at 695.
Thus, under Nguyen, to establish that a defendant engaged in organized criminal activity, the State must prove more than an agreement to jointly commit a single crime. Id.
While the State is not required to prove the defendant committed more than one criminal offense, it must prove "continuity," or that the defendant 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.
Therefore, if the evidence indicates that:
(1) a defendant's accomplices had engaged in ongoing multiple criminal activities, including a prior agreement to purchase supposedly stolen computer memory chips;
(2) a defendant agrees to join the existing organized crime unit, knowing that it has committed or will commit multiple criminal activities, he falls within the definition of engaging in organized criminal activity, even if he is caught after committing a single criminal offense.