Federal Gang Crimes Defense Lawyers
Being charged with a federal gang crime can have serious consequences that can negatively impact your life and freedom. However, with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side, you may be able to fight the charges or negotiate a favorable plea deal. This article provides an overview of federal gang crimes, defenses, and how a knowledgeable lawyer can help.
What are Federal Gang Crimes?
The federal government takes gang-related crimes very seriously and has passed laws specifically targeting criminal gang activity. The main laws used to prosecute federal gang crimes include:
- 18 U.S.C. 521 – Prohibits participation in criminal street gangs. Defines a gang as having 5 or more members whose purpose is to commit certain felony crimes. Provides sentencing enhancements for gang members.
- RICO Act – Prohibits engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity connected to an enterprise such as a gang. Allows targeting gang leaders who direct others to commit crimes.
- 18 U.S.C. 1959 – Prohibits violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity, including murder, assault, and threats. Frequently used to charge gang members.
- 18 U.S.C. 1962 – Prohibits acquiring an interest in an enterprise through racketeering. Used to target profits from criminal gang enterprises.
- Drug Trafficking – Gangs are often involved in drug trafficking offenses under 21 U.S.C. 841 and 21 U.S.C. 846. Harsh mandatory minimums apply.
- Firearms Offenses – 18 U.S.C. 922 and 18 U.S.C. 924 prohibit felons and gang members from possessing firearms.
The penalties for federal gang crimes are severe, often involving decades in prison. The complex web of federal laws gives prosecutors broad power to target almost any type of gang activity.
Proving Gang Membership
To convict you of a federal gang crime, prosecutors must prove you are an active member of a criminal gang. The government may try to prove gang membership through:
- Tattoos, hand signs, clothing, or symbols linked to a gang
- Social media posts, photos, and videos showing gang involvement
- Recorded phone calls or text messages using gang code words
- Testimony from informants, former gang members, or undercover agents
- Prior arrests or convictions for gang-related crimes
However, experienced defense lawyers know how to challenge this evidence. They will scrutinize the reliability of witnesses and point out flaws in the prosecution’s portrayal of you as a gang member.
A key aspect of federal gang crimes is that they carry mandatory enhanced sentences above the penalty for the underlying offense:
- For drug trafficking under 21 U.S.C. 841 and 846, a gang member may face up to an extra 10 years in prison.
- Under 18 U.S.C. 1959, violent gang crimes carry a mandatory life sentence if someone is killed.
- RICO conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 1962 can add up to an extra 20 years per racketeering count.
Your defense lawyer’s top priority will be avoiding these harsh sentencing enhancements that can lock you away for decades. They will look for weaknesses in the government’s evidence connecting you to a gang and object to any unconstitutional application of sentencing enhancements.
Skilled federal gang crimes lawyers know how to build an aggressive defense to fight the charges and get charges reduced or dismissed. Here are some possible defenses:
- Lack of Gang Membership – Argue there is insufficient evidence you are an active gang member. Challenge witnesses connecting you to a gang.
- Entrapment – Argue you were improperly induced by government informants to join a gang you otherwise had no intention of joining.
- Duress – Argue you were forced against your will to participate in gang activity due to threats against you or your family.
- Unconstitutional Vagueness – Argue the definition of a “criminal street gang” is unconstitutionally vague.
- Violation of Due Process – Object to sentencing enhancements that violate Constitutional due process protections.
- Illegal Search – File a motion to suppress evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure.
- Self-Defense – Argue your actions were lawful self-defense, not criminal gang activity.
Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help
The deck is heavily stacked against defendants in federal gang crime cases. That’s why having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is critical. Here’s how a knowledgeable attorney can help fight for the best possible outcome:
- Conduct an independent investigation to undermine the prosecution’s version of events
- Challenge evidence allegedly proving your gang membership
- File motions to suppress evidence obtained illegally
- Negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or dismissal of sentencing enhancements
- Craft persuasive trial strategies and arguments to create reasonable doubt
- Present evidence and witnesses supporting defenses such as entrapment or duress
- Advocate for the lowest possible sentence if convicted
- Appeal the conviction or sentence if errors are made in the trial
The consequences of a federal gang conviction are extremely severe. Do not leave your fate in the hands of prosecutors. Contact a dedicated federal criminal defense lawyer immediately to start fighting for your freedom.