Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving Ann Arbor

Gang affiliation results in heavier penalties on charges

If you're charged with a crime, you could face an additional charge for gang affiliation. Is this really a crime, though? Is it fair, based on your First Amendment rights, to penalize you just for associating with people in a gang?

This is a complicated question. Your First Amendment rights allow you to associate with anyone you choose, but if that association is harmful to others, you could find the right isn't definite. Instead of penalizing you for association, many states have gang enhancements on their charges. For example, a homicide caused by someone who isn't in a gang is only a homicide, but someone in a gang might face gang-related homicide charges with heavier penalties.

How would a cop or the courts know about gang affiliation?

In states where gang activity is prominent, there are typically databases that include information on known members of gangs throughout the state. If you are in the database, even if you ended up on the list despite not associating with or participating in gang activities, you're likely to face harsher penalties for your association with troublemaking gangs.

How do gang enhancements affect people in trouble with the law?

For people facing charges, a gang enhancement can make a huge difference. For example, if your original charge has a maximum penalty of one year in prison, the addition of a gang enhancement could raise the maximum to two or three years. There are people who argue that the modification due to gang association is not fair, but for now, these penalties are allowed to be added if and when the charge is filed.

Just associating with a gang is enough for you to face harsher penalties. Know your rights, because a defense is necessary to fight allegations of gang association.