Teenagers are notorious for making rash decisions that they later regret. Often, this extends to the friends and acquaintances with whom they associate at school or during extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, these poor decisions can have lifelong consequences for minors who become involved with gangs. Many adolescents are unaware of the seriousness of these associations, which can lead to felony convictions and prison sentences. To ensure that you or your child receives the best possible defense, it is vital that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.Criminal Gang-Related Activity
In Florida, criminal gang-related activity is punishable by jail time or probation and involves activities:
Committed with the intent to benefit, promote, or further the interests of a criminal gang, or for the purposes of increasing a person’s own standing or position within a criminal gang;
In which the participants are identified as criminal gang members or criminal gang associates acting individually or collectively to further any criminal purpose of a criminal gang;
That are identified as criminal gang activity by a documented reliable informant; or
That are identified as criminal gang activity by an informant of previously untested reliability, and such identification is corroborated by independent information.
A criminal gang is any formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that has as one of its primary activities the commission of criminal or delinquent acts. Criminal gangs must consist of three or more persons who have a common name or common identifying signs, colors, or symbols. Criminal gangs include, but are not limited to, terrorist organizations and hate groups.Criminal Gang Member
A criminal gang member is a person who meets two or more of the following criteria:
- Admits to criminal gang membership;
- Is identified as a criminal gang member by a parent or guardian;
- Is identified as a criminal gang member by a documented reliable informant;
- Adopts the style of dress of a criminal gang;
- Adopts the use of a hand sign identified as used by a criminal gang;
- Has a tattoo identified as used by a criminal gang;
- Associates with one or more known criminal gang members;
- Is identified as a criminal gang member by an informant of previously untested reliability and such identification is corroborated by independent information;
- Is identified as a criminal gang member by physical evidence;
- Has been observed in the company of one or more known criminal gang members four or more times; or
- Has authored any communication indicating responsibility for the commission of any crime by the criminal gang.
If a judge or jury finds that a criminal defendant has committed an offense in order to further the purposes of a criminal gang, the penalty for the offense may be enhanced. For example, a second degree misdemeanor may be punished as a first degree misdemeanor, or a third degree felony may be punished as a second degree felony.Defenses
Recent crackdowns on gang activity in Florida have led to some overzealous prosecutions by the state. There are, however, a variety of valid defenses that may lead to reduced or dismissed charges, including the following:
- Evidence that was the fruit of an unreasonable search or seizure;
- Unlawful arrest;
- Unreliable informant; or
- Statements to law enforcement that were solicited unlawfully.
Criminal charges can affect juveniles for the rest of their lives. If you or your child have been charged with a gang-related offense, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.