Boyle v. United States

556 U.S. 938, 129 S. Ct. 2237 (2009)



Regarding whether an association-in-fact enterprise under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1961 et seq., must have an ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages, such an enterprise must have a "structure," but an instruction framed in that precise language is not necessary.


Defendant was charged in connection with a series of bank thefts that were allegedly conducted by a group that was loosely organized and did not appear to have had a leader or hierarchy. The trial court refused to give defendant's proposed instruction that the government was required to prove that the RICO enterprise had an ascertainable structural hierarchy distinct from the charged predicate acts. The trial court instead instructed the jury that an association of individuals without structural hierarchy could form an enterprise.


Did the trial court give the jury the correct instructions?




The Supreme Court held that an association-in-fact enterprise had to have a "structure." However, the instructions did not have to include the term "structure," and the jury was correctly and adequately instructed. The enumerated enterprises under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1961(4) broadly encompassed any group of individuals associated in fact and were not limited to "business-like entities." Three structural features were necessary: a purpose, relationships among those associated with the enterprise, and sufficient longevity to permit pursuit of the purpose. However, additional structural features such as hierarchy or a chain of command were not required.

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