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McDonald v. People.

2021 CO 64. No. 20SC354. Colorado Organized Crime Control Act—Statutory Interpretation—Double Jeopardy.

September 13, 2021


In this opinion, the Supreme Court interpreted the term “enterprise” as used in the Colorado Organized Crime Act (COCCA). In doing so, the Court adopted the structural requirements inferred by the US Supreme Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and held that COCCA requires an associated-in-fact enterprise to have (1) a minimum amount of structure—namely, a purpose, relationships among those associated with the enterprise, and longevity sufficient to permit the associates to pursue the enterprise’s purpose; and (2) an ongoing organization of associates, functioning as a continuing unit, that exists separate and apart from the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages.

Here, the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jurors regarding the structural features required for an associated-in-fact enterprise. That error was not harmless, so defendant’s COCCA conviction was vacated. And although the Court concluded that the evidence presented was sufficient to sustain the COCCA conviction under the standard existing at the time of trial, because the prosecution did not have notice of the standard announced in this opinion, the Court refused to speculate as to whether a properly instructed jury would have found that the prosecution had met its burden of proof. Therefore, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial on the COCCA charge.

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