Many states have enacted laws focusing on gang affiliation to prohibit people from joining such groups. The definition of a gang varies, especially when it comes to youth gangs. In general, a gang is an organization, group, or association of at least three people. The gang has:
- A common name
- Identifying symbol(s)
- Identifying sign(s)
- Members who actively participate in crimes
Generally speaking, gang affiliation laws target people who might not necessarily be confirmed members of a gang. However, they might be subject to criminal penalties due to their affiliation with, or association with gangs and gang activity.
For instance, if a person is caught writing graffiti that is associated with a certain gang, that person might be held for questioning regarding their possible membership in that gang.
The federal government currently does not have any particular laws against gang affiliation. However, it does prosecute known gang members under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute. Racketeering is defined as operating an unlawful business. This sort of crime is typically associated with the mafia and organized crime.
Criminal penalties for a RICO conviction are about 20 years in prison and/ or a $25,000 fine. Civil penalties for a RICO criminal conviction depends on the individual or business effected. Compensation is three times the damages suffered. Thus, participation in a racketeering crime may also involve issues with gang affiliation or gang membership.
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Many state legislatures have enacted laws, like California’s law on Gang Affiliation Enhancement, that are designed to discourage gang affiliation. The laws attempt to stop:
- Gang Participation: Some states, such as Georgia and Texas, make it unlawful for anyone to form, associate with, or profit from a street gang.
- Wear Gang-Related Apparel: Many states have laws that prohibit students in elementary and secondary schools from wearing gang-related apparel while on school grounds. This type of law does not include school uniforms but refers to any type of clothing which indicates gang membership.
- Gang Recruitment: Other states make it illegal for anyone to recruit a person to participate in a criminal gang. Florida makes it unlawful for anyone to intentionally cause, solicit, or encourage a person to join a street gang. California also has laws to stop people from joining criminal gangs.
Laws governing gang-related apparel can vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For instance, some areas may identify the use of certain colors or patterns of clothing as being associated with a particular gang. Penalties for
Involvement or accused involvement in any type of organized crime may result years in prison. It is highly recommended you speak to a local criminal attorney to learn more about your defense options if you’ve been involved in a gang affiliation charge.