What constitutes a gang crime?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Gangs can significantly impact communities, and law enforcement takes these offenses seriously. Gang activity is often associated with violence, drug trafficking and fear.

What exactly constitutes a “gang crime,” and how can you defend yourself if you’re wrongly accused of association? While the term gets thrown around frequently, the legal definition of a gang crime involves specific elements.

Beyond the graffiti: Identifying gang involvement

Not every crime a group of people commits qualifies as a gang crime. There’s a clear distinction between criminal activity and activity perpetrated by a gang. Also, gangs aren’t random groups. They often have a level of structure, with leadership roles and established hierarchies.

Additionally, gang members share a common identity, often symbolized by names, slogans, clothing styles, hand signs or tattoos. This shared identity fosters a sense of belonging and reinforces their group affiliation.

The legal threshold: What makes a crime “gang-related”

Understanding the specific crimes that fall under the umbrella of “gang crime” is crucial. According to 18 U.S.C. Section 521, not all crimes committed by gang members qualify. Drug trafficking offenses outlined in the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802) qualify as gang crimes, but only if they are considered felonies with a penalty of less than 5 years in prison. This distinction excludes major drug trafficking offenses carrying harsher sentences.

Additionally, federal felonies involving violence or the threat of violence against another person also fall under the gang crime umbrella. This includes attempted violence and any conspiracies to commit such violent crimes.

Gang crime is a complex issue, and legal definitions play a crucial role in how these crimes are addressed. Suppose you’ve been charged with being a member of a gang. In that case, you’ll want to work with a legal team that has a nuanced understanding of the elements that constitute a gang and the specific crimes that qualify as gang-related under the law.