Criminal gang behavior is widely considered to be a problem in Georgia. As a result, the government has passed legislation specifically targeting gang activity. These laws are controversial, however. While the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld their constitutionality, there are still many who question that decision. Even with Georgia’s strict laws, there are many ways to defend against these charges. We can help put together a formidable defense against charges if you or a loved one are facing criminal gang affiliation charges in McDonough, Georgia.
The law in Georgia sets parameters for what is considered a “criminal street gang.” They are:
The existence of the groups must be established, and the law sets criteria for how this can be done. These include, but are not limited to:
The law also lays out a broad definition of what is considered to initiate criminal gang activity:
Gang activity includes any of the following crimes:
Under the criminal gang activity law, it is illegal to:
To get a conviction on gang activity charges, the prosecution must prove four things:
The most effective form of defense in most criminal gang activity cases is to attack the prosecution’s attempt to establish the four criteria. Proving all four can be difficult and often relies on “expert witnesses.” The credibility of those witnesses can be challenged. Much of the information the witnesses work off is second-hand and not direct knowledge. It may be dismissed as hearsay.
The fourth criterion, proving the act is meant to further the interests of the gang, can also often be a weak point for the prosecution. The prosecution must provide evidence showing that the defendant’s intent was to commit criminal gang activity to benefit the gang. The validity of that evidence can be challenged.
Putting forth the most effective defense against criminal gang activity charges requires a criminal defense lawyer who is creative and pays careful attention to detail. Our team can exhaust every possibility when defending our clients against these kinds of charges.
In Georgia, the law defines a criminal street gang as consisting of both formal and informal groups of three or more people who engage in criminal gang activity. The law recognizes that the gang may be identified by symbols, tattoos, signs, attire and other distinguishing markings. Similarly, the gang may also be recognized by common behaviors, activities, and customs. It’s important to recognize that the gang must be involved in criminal activity, so any of these distinguishing characteristics are irrelevant if people choose to informally or formally participate in organizations with non-criminal activity.
In Georgia, criminal gang activity is both direct and indirect involvement in committing or planning to commit crimes that involve:
Charges for criminal gang activity will be considered a felony offense. The particulars of sentencing will be determined based on the nature of the violation and the criminal background of the defendant. Sentences can include a fine of $10,000 to $15,000, a prison sentence of five to twenty years, or a combination of both.
There are a few different ways in which gang charges can be challenged. One method is to challenge any of the four criteria that the prosecution must prove, which are:
Georgia’s gang charges are relatively new. They can be challenged in court, but it requires a legal team that is talented enough to pick apart the prosecution’s case, challenge the supposed “expert witnesses” on gang activity, and question the constitutionality of the statute.
You are going to need more than what a public defender can offer. With the team at Miller North & Brill on your side, you can have the benefit of a skilled legal team and experienced trial lawyers on your side. Contact us today to let us build a strong case on your behalf.
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