If you’ve been charged with a gang crime in Atlanta, you may be saying to yourself, “But, I’m not even in a gang!” In Georgia, you don’t technically have to be in a gang to be charged with a gang crime. Ask any of the Atlanta gang crimes defense lawyers in the area and they’ll tell you that.
Sure, most criminal defendants charged with these crimes have some sort of gang affiliation. But, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer will know that this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an element of the crime.
Georgia is serious about curbing gang activity. This is why their laws are so strict. The statute outlining criminal gang activity is quite long. There are close to a dozen different offenses that are considered gang crimes. Some of these include:
- Acquiring (directly or indirectly) any property or money that was obtained through criminal gang activity
- Committing any offense with the intention of earning membership into a gang
- Threatening someone with any kind of injury for trying to withdraw from a gang
- To communicate with any person with the intention of recruiting or encouraging them to become a member of a street gang
If you’ve been charged with these or any other gang crime in Georgia, you’re going to need an experienced gang crimes attorney. Call Howard & Arca at (678) 916-8649 today to get the best criminal defense lawyers fighting for you.
- 1 What is the Georgia Street Gang Act?
- 2 What are Defenses for Gang Affiliation Charges?
- 3 What are the Penalties for Participation in Gang Activity?
- 4 Contact an Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney at Howard and Arca
What is the Georgia Street Gang Act?
Georgia has such a serious problem with street gangs that they passed a law called the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. This act is designed to prevent gang members from perpetrating crimes against innocent citizens.
Gang members do commit crimes against other gang members. However, in order to fund their operations, they commit tons of serious crimes against innocent people. They also target innocent citizens in their initiation rites.
This is a big reason why the General Assembly passed this act. It’s more to protect the people of Georgia as opposed to protecting gang members from other gang members.
The Act specifically makes it a separate crime for any gang member to participate in any of the following crimes:
- Criminal trespass
- Criminal destruction of property
- Aiding a child to escape their home for the purposes of participating in gang activity
- Kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment
In addition to these crimes, and others outlined in the statute, it’s also illegal to do the following:
- Acquire any money or property from a gang
- Recruit new members
- Retaliate against people who don’t want to join your gang
- Retaliate against someone who intends to testify against the gang
- Retaliate against someone wishing to leave the gang
- Commit crimes or injuries against anyone who reports gang activity to the police
The thing about the Georgia Street Gang Act is that you actually have to be a gang member to be prosecuted under this act. Your Atlanta gang crimes defense lawyer will have to fight to prove that you aren’t a gang member. If this is the case, you can’t be convicted under this statute.
Because the penalties for these crimes are so high, you need to have an experienced defense lawyer by your side. You don’t want to try to handle this yourself.
What are Defenses for Gang Affiliation Charges?
There are really only three (3) main defenses to a gang charge. Your lawyer will know that in most cases, attempting to defend yourself with an argument that is not one of the three listed below will result in a potentially avoidable conviction.
Prove that No Crime was Committed
This is difficult. Chances are, the prosecutor wouldn’t have arrested and charged you if no crime at all was committed. They must have some evidence to prove that a crime took place.
Crime Wasn’t Connected to Gang Activity
In order to convict you under the Street Gang Act, the State must prove that the activity was indeed related to a gang. Sometimes, just because a person is related to someone in a gang, law enforcement assumes their behavior is gang-related.
You Are Not a Member of a Gang
Remember – in order to be convicted under this statute, the State must prove that you are an actual gang member. If your Atlanta gang crimes defense lawyers can prove that you have no affiliation with a gang, you cannot be charged with a gang crime.
Your attorney will demand that the State provide all of their information during discovery. Then your lawyer can look for inconsistencies to disprove their case.
You want to be careful in what defense you offer the State. It’s not enough to argue that you weren’t the one who committed the crime. The statute says that you can be involved either directly or indirectly. If there is any tie to you, then you can be charged and convicted of the crime under the gang statutes.
The other defense that won’t hold water is that you did nothing but threaten someone. The statute specifically says that threatening someone is enough to charge you with the offense. Your Atlanta gang crimes lawyer understands that this is not going to be enough to get your acquitted.
What are the Penalties for Participation in Gang Activity?
As you can imagine, the penalties for gang activity is quite high in Georgia. Gang activity has reached a crisis level. The State is absolutely serious about taking a hard stance against gang members and people affiliated with gang members.
If you’re convicted under the Georgia Street Gang Act, you’re going to be facing some pretty serious penalties. These include:
- A minimum of 5 years in prison, but no more than 25 years
- Fines anywhere from $10,000 and $25,000
- An order that you do not affiliate with any gang member or associate of a gang member
- If your crime involved a victim, you’ll be prohibited from having any contact with that victim or their family
These conditions will last even after you get out of prison. If you’re found to violate either of these conditions, you can go to jail for additional time.
What the statute doesn’t tell you is that, once you’re convicted or even charged under this act, you will go under the microscope. Law enforcement in Atlanta become very familiar with gang members and alleged gang members. You won’t be able to jaywalk without the police citing you. Nobody wants to live under these kinds of conditions.
Contact an Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney at Howard and Arca
If you or your loved one have been charged with a gang crime, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta. Georgia takes its gang crimes prevention efforts very seriously. This is even truer within the city limits.
You don’t want to handle a gang charge without a competent attorney by your side. There is too much at stake. If convicted, you’ll have a felony on your criminal record. You’ll also be facing serious jail time and heavy fines. This isn’t something you want to do by yourself.
With charges this serious, you really don’t want to rely on a public defender. You need an attorney who has years of experience handling gang-related criminal cases. This will give you the best chance of getting your charges reduced or dismissed. This is what Howard & Arca provide to their clients.
Call us at (678) 916-8649 and schedule an initial consultation with one of the Atlanta gang crimes defense lawyers at Howard and Arca today.