What is a Gang Crime?
by Lewis & Laws
What is a Gang Crime?
Being accused of a crime is bad enough, but when the charges against you include accusations of being involved in a criminal street gang, the stakes are even higher and the process is even more complicated.
Regardless of what the offense is, labeling it as gang related means that the prosecutor can seek much harsher sentences since the judge can hand down sentences that exceed the maximum for the crime in question. In addition, prosecutors’ offices often get federal funds to go after gang crimes.
If you’ve been charged with a gang-related crime, it’s important to understand exactly what that term entails as you consider your defense strategy.
What is a Gang?
According to the law in Washington, a “criminal street gang” is any group of three or more individuals that share an identifying group name or sign. To be considered a criminal street gang, committing crimes must be one of the group’s primary activities, although it does not have to be its only activity.
Note that this definition is broad. It doesn’t specify how well the three individuals know each other or how closely they work together. It doesn’t make a distinction between a tightly controlled Mafia-style criminal organization that orders execution-style murders of law enforcement officials and a group of three teenagers who sell drugs and drive recklessly. This vague definition gives prosecutors a lot of leeway in seeking to classify an offense as gang related, and it means that an experienced defense team is that much more important if you’ve been charged with a gang-related crime.
What is A Gang Crime?
In Washington, a gang crime is any criminal activity that furthers the gang’s interest and/or increases the offender’s standing in the gang. This includes crimes that are committed as part of an initiation into a gang and crimes that are committed to maintain or improve the offender’s place in the gang hierarchy. Furthering the gang’s interest is also defined in very broad terms: the offense could be anything to gain something concrete for the gang, such as money or turf. Crimes that have less obvious advantages for the gang, such as increasing local prestige, are also considered to be furthering the gang’s interests.
Both felonies and misdemeanors can be prosecuted as gang crimes if the prosecutor thinks that the crime was committed to further the interests of a gang. Examples of crimes that can be prosecuted as gang crimes include murder, reckless endangerment, drug crimes, firearm possession, car theft and prostitution.
The bottom line is that if you’ve been accused of committing a gang-related crime, it’s essential to have a defense team that fully understands how to protect your rights. It’s important to get representation immediately and to not speak with law enforcement without a lawyer present.
Have you or someone you know been accused of a gang crime? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws
The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!