What Happens When a Convicted Defendant is a Gang Member?
Posted 1/19/2014 by Mark Miclette
Information, Jail Myths and Truths
During the hearing or trial your defendant was focused on one goal: being found not guilty. But once the judge announces a guilty finding, and the case moves to the sentencing phase, your defendant’s gang affiliation could be a problem. Only an attorney should advise a client about legal matters, but there are some typical things that can happen once a gang affiliation is recognized.
Enhanced sentencing: Many states allow the judge to give a gang member a harsher sentence than would be given to a non-gang member, even if their crimes were equally serious. In some states, the definition of being in a gang is when three or more people gather for the purpose of criminal activity and act on that purpose. With this definition comes the assumption that if your defendant is in a gang and has already committed prior crimes, their criminal record allows a judge to enhance their sentence, therefore, simply by being in a gang, your defendant can meet the criteria for a longer sentence.
Segregated housing: Most prisons and many county jails make an effort to house members of rival gangs separately. If space allows, they even try not to house them anywhere near each other. This is not out of any respect for inmate safety or desires. Putting rival gang members together causes fights, and the guards have to deal with these altercations. If your defendant is a known gang member, this information will go into a file so that authorities can house the inmate accordingly.
Tattoo registration: While all prisons and jails identify and record inmate tattoos, gang tattoos are of special interest to the authorities. Law enforcement gang units typically receive information about inmates coming into to the system with gang tattoos on their bodies. This goes into a database. If a defendant’s gang affiliation was unknown to the Gang Task Force prior to incarceration, he or she will be identified as a gang member when released.
An attorney can advise a defendant about whether or not to disclose a gang membership to the prison, jail or court systems and what that means in their particular state.